For many families, smartphones, tablets and other devices are a normal part of day-to-day life. But when adults are clearly enamoured with their devices – constantly checking their email, texting or reading on their iPad more than they’re interacting with their children – kids notice. They end up feeling neglected and as if they need to fight for their parents’ time and attention.
A recent study in Pediatrics found that caregivers who were highly absorbed in their electronic devices at mealtimes not only caused children to act out to get the adult’s attention, but also “responded harshly” to child misbehaviour.
Face-to-face interaction is crucial for the development of a young child’s language skills and emotional intelligence. Although it is impossible to do away with technology altogether, small cut backs can significantly turn attention to your children and benefit parents and children alike. The family will have time for board games, walks and other activities that build close bonds and warm memories.
6 Digital Detox Steps Every Family Should Take
1. Allocate “Device-Free” Times
Make it a rule to step away from your device at predetermined hours to spend time with your children – during dinner and until your child’s bedtime, for example. If need be, inform co-workers when you will be “unplugged”.
2. Learn to Switch Off
Leave your phone in the car when attending your child’s sporting events and performances. If you can’t bear to be without a camera to document your child’s activities, switch your smartphone to “Airplane mode” to resist the urge to text or quickly check email. Children will know if you’re paying attention to their efforts or if you’re glued to your Twitter feed.
3. Text and Email Only After the Kids’ Bedtime
Wait to check your email or text messages until after your child goes to bed. They will still be there after you’ve read your child a story and tucked him in.
4. Keep Phones Away from Your Bed
Don’t sleep with your smartphone under your pillow or near your bed.
5. Make Mealtimes “Device-Free”
Similarly, don’t eat a meal with smartphones or other devices at the table. If you have older children, make digital detox a family affair. Make gathering everyone’s devices a nightly pre-dinner ritual and ask your children to vote on a “hiding place” for their – and your – digital tech equipment. Also insist on making this a rule when going out to a restaurant. When dining out, the focus should be on face-to-face interaction, not on Instagramming a meal or texting friends.
6. Give Your Devices a Day Off
Be brave. Put your digital devices away for an entire day on the weekends. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish and how much fun the entire family will have.
Republished with permission from Dr Susan Newman, social psychologist, parenting expert and best-selling author.
Suggested Reading: 4 Ways to Curb Internet Addiction in Kids