There was a heartbreaking moment which really kicked off my personal digital detox. One morning my young son clambered into bed with me and, after a brief cuddle, climbed over me and handed me my phone. He said to me “Here you go mummy, I found your phone”. It was then that I realised I used my phone in front of him way too much. He thought my phone was as important to me as he was, so important that I even needed it in bed. After that moment I started charging my phone downstairs and not having by my bed.
Like many other parents I use my phone too much. I use it for photos, social media, talking to my husband. My phone sits next to me on the sofa, it ends up in my hand more times than I would like. However, as a family, we are working hard on our unplugged journey and that means taking positive steps towards reconnecting for real and ensuring our digital behaviour doesn’t become an issue for our children.
Since the beginning of our Living Unplugged journey we have found seven great ways to help our children move away from digital overuse:
- Rules for all – It’s very difficult to implement a rule if we as parents aren’t setting a good example. Our children watch our behaviour and regardless of what we say it’s our actions that really matter. We set limits for their screen time but we must also be mindful of our usage. If the kids aren’t using computer screens, neither should we.
- Stop and listen – I love the quote “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity” – Simone Weil. The time we give to people is one of our greatest gifts since it’s a finite resource. As a family it is important to stop and listen to one another. If someone is talking, especially your child, put all distractions aside. Stop scrolling through social media or checking emails. Stop and listen.
- Phone free mealtimes – We have a very clear rule at mealtimes. No devices. This ensures we are all present and sitting down as a family. We put a lot of emphasis on good food in our house and usually we have spent time and effort into creating a meal. The no-device rule works to show respect for the meal but also encourages real conversation
- Phone free bedrooms – It wasn’t easy but we make sure that phones stay downstairs. The bedroom should be a sanctuary, both for adults and children. It will also teach your children the boundaries of technology.
- Screen time limits – My stepson is twelve years old and would certainly prefer to be on his computer 24/7 if he could. However, if left unchecked he becomes withdrawn and moody. Screen time helps him and us to monitor his usage and give him the much needed breaks he needs.
- Sharing chores – When it comes to chores and family tasks we all pitch in, even my three year old. Sharing chores is a good way to connect but also to reinforce that everyone in the family unit can and should contribute.
- Go outside – This is our favourite. As a family we go out every weekend. There are so many free ways to get outside, local woods, public footpaths, the coast (which is also lovely even in the winter). Invest in good coats and wellies and get outside. It can really help you get the kids away from their devices.