Adults are working from home. Students are learning from home. We’re Zooming and following IG stories to keep up with our friends and family. We have become more reliant on technology to earn a living, get an education, and stay connected to loved ones than ever before.
Even in the midst of our dependence on WiFi, apps, smartphones, and social media, we look around at our family from time to time and say, “We’re texting each other from the next room. If we don’t get control of all this screen time, our family isn’t going to know each other.”
There are studies linking technology to mental health problems like loneliness, anxiety, and depression. People are suffering from issues such as video game addictions. Divorce filings are citing inappropriate online behavior as factors leading to marital collapse.
Technology is often dictating how we spend our time instead of the other way around. As parents, part of wrestling control away from the screens working on releasing as many dopamine squirts in your brain to get you hooked means setting boundaries with your family.
Here are eight tips for setting boundaries in your family so technology can increase family togetherness and not cause a disconnect.
Set boundaries so technology serves a positive purpose in your family.
Technology can educate, connect, and entertain us in healthy ways. Boundaries help ensure that technology doesn’t take away from any of those positive things. Make sure a screen is never the only source for educating, connecting, and entertaining.
Be a good role model.
Boundaries can’t be one-sided. “Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work. Yes, there are some perks to being an adult; being a technology-distracted parent isn’t one of them. Telling your kids not to bring phones to the dinner table while you sit at the dinner table and text is not a good plan. As a leader in your home, you must first lead by example.
Protect your family.
Setting technology boundaries helps protect your family’s connection, safety, and both mental and physical health. Whether it’s cyberbullying or anxiety, establishing boundaries can work to safeguard your family’s wellbeing.
Make a plan.
Create a family technology plan which includes the purpose, boundaries, and consequences. Enforce consequences unapologetically. This can be as simple as taking away their game controllers or reducing their allotted tech-time.
Incentivize technological responsibility.
Encourage your family to make good decisions through rewards that are meaningful. Trips to the ice cream shop, extra tech-time on the weekend, choosing the movie on family movie night—anything that brings attention to good decision-making regarding technology usage reinforces the behavior you want to see.
Designate tech-free time.
When possible, replace tech-time with family time. Make space for family movies, game nights, and family meals. Setting aside time before bedtime, when devices are off, will help the family connect and increase everyone’s chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Focus on what’s best for your family. Don’t compare yourself to other families. No two homes are alike. It’s one thing to seek advice from other families, but keep your family values front and center.
Educate your family.
Invite your children to learn what you’re learning about the pros and cons of technology. Our family has watched documentaries, television specials and read information together. Being informed has helped our family understand the potential effects of technology on our mental health, relationships, and even our brains. This helps us hold each other accountable and helps us stay focused on the most important thing—our relationships.
Boundaries don’t have to be restrictive. Good boundaries will help your family enjoy relationships with each other by protecting you from potential distractions. Setting boundaries in your family is your way of putting technology in its place. Gadgets are not more important than your relationships with the people you love. Messing with those relationships is a boundary that you can’t give technology the freedom to cross.