Before the advent and popularization of the Internet, family time seemed far easier to maintain.
After returning home from school or work, families would most often be isolated from the outside world—interconnected only by the one-way transmission of radio or television.
Now? Interactions with others online have made it easier to ignore those in your home and spend time with friends and strangers alike in the online space.
While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the limitation and minimization of family time have made it harder for parents to spend quality time with their kids. It can be easy to ban technology and limit its use in the home, but perhaps taking such a drastic route sets a bad precedent for the importance of technology today.
So where’s the middle ground? We’ll be looking at different strategies and tactics you can use in the home to bring your family together and make the most out of family time.
New Approaches to a 21st Century Problem
If we’re going to spend time with family in the current day and age, we’re going to need to approach the problem with a current mentality.
While limiting technology in the home is certainly a good place to start, outright banning phones and otherwise forbidding the use of technology, in general, doesn’t set a good precedent for children.
It’s all too easy to see ‘technology’ as the bane of your existence, but we urge you to take a nuanced approach and try to find ways to leverage both the phones and the family.
For instance—if you noticed that a younger son or daughter enjoys video games and playing with others online, perhaps you can use video games to bring your family together instead of pushing them further apart.
Consider purchasing video game consoles and titles that focus on multiplayer or cooperative play. By approaching video games with your children, you can manage to recognize their hobbies while continuing to spend quality time with your kids.
Online, there are several games that can be played with devices your family may already own. Certain games are designed to work with both a television with smart functionality as well as any device on the same Wi-Fi network, so considering these may also be a good place to start.
Spending time with family and technology in the home does not have to be mutually exclusive concepts. If possible and when appropriate, attempt to marry the two and show others how technology can be used to bring people together.
Limiting Technology the Easy Way
Of course, using cell phones and gaming consoles is not always an option for every family. In some cases, family fun time becomes limited by attempting to use technology. In which case, we need to eliminate the problems at hand in a way that feels natural and fun to your children.
Has anyone in your family expressed an interest in the great outdoors? If so, consider taking your family to a nearby park or national forest. The scenic vistas and activities at places like this are often exciting for people of all ages.
There’s also an added benefit to the remote nature of these locations as well. Since national parks are protected by the federal government, cell phone towers remain far away and out of reach. Without this connectivity, children and adults alike will be less interested in their phones.
If nature is not exciting for your family, there are other ways to quietly promote a lack of technology. Traveling to a football or a basketball game takes the focus away from the phone and onto the court and field.
Likewise, entertainment like arcades and movie theaters allow for experiences that can be discussed at length far after they’ve ended.
Ultimately, the key is not to ban technology—but instead cultivate a space where technology and distraction are second to the excitement of the experience in front of a family. Heading out of doors specifically will also create an air of uncertainty—and who knows?
Perhaps an unexpected event will be remembered for years to come.
Limiting Technology the Hard Way
Of course, not every instance of traveling or outdoor excursions will be possible.
Some children and teenagers may have difficulty in separating themselves from the outside world. In some cases, parents have the same issue.
So, when all else fails, we’ll need to limit technology in the home.
Consider arranging dates and times with your children when approaching the subject of remaining technology. Of course, this conversation may lead to some nasty arguments—but is necessary to make sure that both everybody is on the same page and that everybody understands why this change needs to take place.
It’s alright to start small if that’s what needs to be done. Perhaps nominate one evening out of the week that everybody will be together and unplugged. During this evening, families can try out family time games—from classic board games to activities outside.
When initiating that first discussion, make sure that you hear out the opinions and suggestions of each member of the household. Remember that we’re trying to cultivate a quality atmosphere—so including games and activities that each person would like to try out is paramount.
During evenings without technology, there are several ways to make sure each person holds up their end of the bargain.
Consider setting up a specific location in the house where phones and computers need to be ‘checked in’ before coming to the table. Uncover the number of devices equal to the number of the devices in your home, and don’t start the evening with family until you have that set number.
Once the devices are collected, it may be wise to also turn the Wi-Fi router off in the home. That way, any push notifications or other distractions are limited.
One of the most important rules when it comes to limiting technology is to do so equally and without exception. Yes—that means that your cell phone and laptop need to be checked in as well.
There are two reasons for this—the first being for the sake of appearances.
If you’ve established that the purpose of checking in devices is for everyone to better connect with each other, and you use technology yourself during this time, you’re only cultivating an opinion of hypocrisy. Children are smart—and will quickly see the limitation of phones and devices as less of a means to quality time and more of a punishment.
The second reason should be obvious—you need to prevent your distractions. In almost any case, emails and phone calls from work or other obligations can wait an hour or so for your family to enjoy some family time together.
If this is not possible or if you sense an emergency may come up, nominate one phone to remain ‘checked out’ and explain the reasoning to each member of the family. Ask them to hold you accountable to the rules—and only let you use the phone for reasons you’ve already explained to them.
By instilling this sense of accountability, you’ll be able to keep the focus on family time and away from accusations of double standards and otherwise.
Sticking to Your Schedule
Ultimately, the key to making sure your family time is as valuable and as constant as possible is to make it part of your weekly schedule.
After you’ve set up the day (or days) that you will spend time with your family, hold each member to keeping that time free.
Set up a system in which family members can only skip family game nights one time per month or semester—and require that a good explanation be present to justify the absence. Like we’ve mentioned a few times prior, you and any other adults in the household will also need to abide by the same rules and give the same reasoning to justify any time missed.
Keeping everyone on a level playing field and allowing the family unit to monitor itself will help you keep everyone interested and happy to attend. After all, what’s the point of family quality time if the family has no desire to participate?
We won’t lie to you—instilling these rules and convincing the family of the value of spending time together is not going to be easy. Several members of the family may be defensive of their access to technology—while adults may not see the need in keeping to the rules themselves.
It will be up to individual family members to figure out what rules and systems need to be in place to make sure that they make the most of family time. Try out what you need to, experiment with rules, and make sure that each member of your family cannot wait to spend more time with each other.