Tired of talking to a brick wall…or, more likely, the backside of an electronic screen? Village Lane asked parents across the country for suggestions on how to unplug the family from electronics. Here are some of their ideas:
1. Get your family back to nature: send your kids outdoors for as many hours as possible — and leave the electronics at home!
2. Write down a time limit on recreational electronics use – theirs, and yours, too!
3. Keep electronics in view – no electronics use behind closed doors.
4. Keep an eye on your account if your kids are downloading materials and you’re paying for them on a credit card.
5. Make sure that when you converse with each other, no one is looking at a screen of any kind. Be a family that shows each other the basic respect of looking at each other when speaking.
6. Don’t bring the electronics with you to sporting events, arts performances, worship services, or out to meals. Create long spaces of time that are electronics-free and filled with other activities.
7. Observe a tech-free day, a Sabbath day or another long period once a week where all electronics are banned.
8. Find fun activities to do as a family. Many are low cost: athletics, walks, bike rides, visits to the beach, sailing or boating on a lake, hiking in the mountains, car trips, visits to national monuments and places of interest, swimming, playgrounds and parks, nature preserves, and camping (even if it’s in your own backyard!)
9. Financial adviser Susie Orman gives the wise advice: “First people, then money, then things.” We would add, “and last of all, electronics!”
10. Fill your home with books, board games and magazines that your children might just pick up and enjoy!
11. Make sure your children have friends to play with. If you don’t live in a neighborhood with other families, make the effort to ensure that your child is socializing with human beings and not just a screen.
12. Keep the electronics – all of them – out of all bedrooms.
13. Make a rule that there is no TV, phones or other electronic interruption during meals. Bring back the “family dinner” into your home.
14. Put a long interval between electronics use and bedtime. In fact, if you can do a “no electronics after dinner” rule, it would be even better.
15. Take your kids to live arts performances – without electronics. Even if they complain at first, eventually they most likely will come to appreciate and even love the arts.
16. Try to think of ways of not using electronics. For example, when looking up something, sure, you can just Google it, but sometimes try turning instead to a book, atlas, or encyclopedia. There may even be a family member or neighbor who has the answer!
17. Make sure that electronics use is not the automatic transition between other activities. When your kids come home, don’t let them run off to the tv or video games – require them to come in, greet parents and grandparents properly, engage in some conversation, etc. – break the bad habit of running to electronics automatically to fill down time.
18. Bring your kids in on the discussion of how the family can substitute “human time” with “plugged in” time. Let them know why you want to limit the electronics usage at home, and listen to their ideas. Let them know also how much you value the responsible and limited use of electronics, so they won’t tell you you’re still stuck in the 1800s.
19. Have a designated place for charging electronics so they don’t end up in bedrooms and behind locked doors.
20. Have kids understand that there are priorities, and that involvement with electronics is not at the top of the list. Talk with them about getting their school work done, musical instrument practicing, sports teams, chores, personal grooming, sleep, socializing with friends, reading books, and other activities that come first.
21. Make sure everyone in the family has time to interact, converse with, and form relationships with real human beings. Don’t let anyone in the family shut himself off from human interaction on a regular basis.
22. Make as many everyday activities as possible family or group activities: do household chores together; do simple errands together; do something nice for another person together. All of these things add to the connectedness we feel with other human beings.
23. Be a good role model. Start with yourself: turn it all off and experience the wonders of nature, enjoy the quiet and peace, and start interacting again with live human beings. In time, your family will pick up on that positive example.
24. Reward non-electronic time with quality family time: hugs at bedtime, shared laughs, family stories from grandparents, time spent doing something that is fun and benefits the entire family (for example, planting or watering an organic vegetable garden, fixing a delicious weekend meal, wrapping gifts with colorful papers and ribbons, or planning a fun party).
25. Find new ways to interact one-on-one with family members. Make “special time” with each family member from time to time.
26. This autumn, get outdoors and have FUN with your family! Use all your senses: visit local farm stands and buy an untried vegetable or fruit to use in a fragrant new recipe, attend a country concert, drive or take a bus to see spectacular fall foliage, go to an orchard and pick your own crisp apples, or taste some freshly made cider.
Photo: Julia Kuznetsova/Shutterstock