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Children's Health

How to balance technology and family

No one would argue that smart-phones, iPads, and the many devices we have access to have made our lives easier and more entertaining for our kids. But technology has drastically changed family life as well.
  
“It’s becoming a real important issue these days, because people are always plugged in,” said Diane Lang, a psychotherapist, author and positive living expert. Twenty-four seven access means we’re always available to our employers, which can extend the work week to 60 or 70 hours.

There’s also a breakdown in communication, as kids are texting their parents from the next room, and many parents are having marital conflict, because they’re so distracted by their devices, Lang said.

Technology will continue to play a major role in our lives, but learning to manage it in your home can make all the difference between being a stressed out family and a happy one.  Read on for simple ways to do just that.

1. Be a role model

Do you check your phone every time you hear it beep? You could be setting the stage for your family’s addiction. “Parents can really set the pace and be role models for how their kids handle technology,” said Caroline Knorr, parenting editor for Common Sense Media. When you set a rule, like “No texting during dinner,” be sure to put your phone away too.

2. Unplug

Children ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven hours a day consuming media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And all of those hours spent on our gadgets can prevent us from enjoying our families.

Setting limits on when and how much time tech time is allowed each day can help. “Then you can actually communicate, spend time with, and get to know each other again,” Lang said.   

3. FaceTime in person

“Socialization is the key factor for happiness,” Lang said, who says it’s important to have a social support system or network aside from Facebook or Twitter that you can share experiences with. So step away from the computer and set up a play date, invite family over for dinner, or meet friends in the park.  

5. Do something else

Have you noticed that your kid has become lazy and impatient? Try to push him of her out of their comfort zone by using no-tech times to go for a bike ride or play outside together. Or instead of turning to Google to find an answer, encourage your kids to look it up in a book instead.

6. Create a hybrid

Technology doesn’t have to be toxic; it can actually strengthen your family’s bond. In fact, 64 percent of parents say that technology allows their family to connect, according to a recent survey by Microsoft.

Combining online and offline activities is a great way to blend technology and family.
Download an app, play a video game, watch a movie or take photos, and then make a scrapbook  together—anything that fosters your kids’ imagination. “It’s another way of carving out a little bit of family time even in this high-tech, media driven world,” Knorr said.  

7. Talk, don’t text

“Our kids are just inundated with media messages,” Knorr said. “We have to reclaim some of that time for us to communicate our own personal values.”  So even if your middle schooler doesn’t go into details about his or her day at school, by sharing one of your experiences, he or she might just be more apt to talk.

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.