Click. Click. Click. Ding! We will bet you hear these sounds flying around you for part, if not most, of your day. Adults, grandparents, teens, children, even babies are using forms of technology. Ipads, cell phones, ipods, laptops, tablets and many more devices can be found in your home, cars, backpacks and even, dare we say it, your bathrooms — ick!
We asked several different families the same question. Why do you like your cell phone? Their answers were similar: It's convenient, it's fun, it is entertaining, it helps me schedule, it keeps me safe and it keeps my kids entertained.
What if we told you there was something in your home right now, that based on use and exposure, could harm your family and destroy your relationships? Would you want to eradicate it? Would you want to protect your family from such harm? Technology can be that something, if you let it. However, it can also be useful and helpful.
Before we go any further let us be clear, we are using a laptop to write this article. There is a cell phone in each of our purses and a video game system in our living room. We are not going to tell you to destroy the technology completely. We are giving you tips that have helped us set up ground rules in our home, and advice on moderation in the tech world.
How bad is it?
Watch this video to help you understand what we mean.
Where is your family on a scale of:
“We have analog phones, prepay for minutes, and lose our phones for days at a time.” or, “We forget where our cell phones are and have a hard time getting the kids inside for dinner.” To, “I can go days without saying a word to my teen or spouse and not even realize it because Facebook is my home.”
As we write this, Shannon is texting her husband in the other room. When I ask her why she doesn't just yell, she replies, “Because he is deaf!” From the other room my father then yells, “Because I'm deaf!”
We openly admit technology has it's advantages.
Once you've honestly admitted where your family lies, and what you'd like to change, you can move on to establishing ground rules.
Ground rules of the game.
This is best done by sitting down by yourself or with a spouse and expressing your concern. Make lists of what you'd like to see change and what you can do to help that change along.
The next step is a little harder — presenting the plan to your family. They may not think technology is as big a problem as you're making it out to be. Be calm, understanding and patient with their concerns. Look at each concern individually and logically. Then let your family know what has to happen.
There will be opposition, kicking, possibly screaming. Your children will tell you you're ruining their lives, or becoming a granola mom. This is all okay, and should be expected.
Here are some examples of tech rules in homes we've experienced:
Tech free zones. Establish times or places where the technology must be checked at the door. Some examples include the dinner table, or certain times of the day.
Cell phone cozy. I love this idea, it came from a friend. She was so tired of her kids wandering inside with a phone pressed up to their face, she started having them put their cell phone in a fabric case she made and tucks it into a drawer.
Tech free week. The campaign for a commercial Free Childhood has some great resources if you'd like to establish a family, or neighborhood tech free week. They even have a free organizers kit to help you get started.
Time. Set certain times of day your kids have to be off the technology and make sure you set a good example.
Make a day of it. Establish one day a week to retire the technology. Everyone must read, play board games, take walks and talk face to face. Sunday is our day, when we're home together anyway.
Learn tech etiquette. Establish rules for your own home, on where and when technology is appropriate. Help your family understand when it's appropriate outside the home as well. You don't want to text when your teacher is explaining a complicated math problem, it is probably not allowed anyway. Here are some places you shouldn't use technology, period.
- Church. This one is a grey area, many people read their scriptures on an app.
- While driving. Absolutely not, too many people have been killed already.
- When your child is telling you something. Even if it's not important, close the laptop, put down the phone, validate them.
- When you are talking to anyone who breathes. If your cell phone rings and you pause your conversation to answer it, make sure it's important because you just put the person on the other end of your conversation in their place. Below your cell phone.
- When you're in the bathroom. The only thing a phone should be used for in the bathroom is calling the fire department because you are stuck and can't get up. If the person on the other end of the phone knew you thought of them, and proceeded to call them, while sitting in the bathroom. Well, you get the idea.
We know technology is here to stay. And as we talk on our cell phones to each other, two states away, while we write this article on laptops we won't tell you to abandon everything electronic. Just make sure you are establishing the right relationships, real relationships, with your family.
Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.