There’s a common misconception that since I write about technology, I must always be online but I’m not. One of the things I love most about my job is the ability to unplug when my kids come home. Doing this has allowed me to win back family time. I’m able to fully focus on my children and have meaningful conversations with them when we’re together. We also have days on the weekend where we’re just busy with family stuff and I just don’t want to check email or my social networks. Having a healthy balance of time online for work and then unplugging in favor of family time has helped keep me more sane in an incredibly busy world.
If you’re struggling with unplugging and want to win back family time, Dr. Mike Patrick from Nationwide Children’s Hospital is here to share five realistic ways to unplug to win back family time.
By Dr. Mike Patrick
American children spend an average of 7 hours each day engaged with screens for the purpose of entertainment. Research shows all this screen time comes with consequences: increased childhood obesity, poor school performance, attention problems, aggression, lack of sleep and eating disorders. Moms and dads want to limit the time our children spend in front of a screen, but we aren’t always sure how to do it. One powerful way to make a difference is to set household rules and follow them ourselves. Here are 5 easy steps parents can take to limit the influence screens exert on family life.
Turn off phone notifications
How many times have you been in the middle of a family conversation or activity, and someone’s phone chimes or buzzes? Instant interruption. And it may be difficult to get everyone back on track. If someone needs to get through urgently, have them call. Texts, emails, and Facebook updates can wait.
Schedule intentional screen time
Screens aren’t all bad. They keep us connected in a way that was not possible for previous generations. Movies, TV shows, and video games can be a needed respite. But like all things in our lives, moderation is key. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting entertaining screen time to no more than 2 hours each day of age-appropriate high-quality content.
Schedule intentional family time
Want to boost family relationships? Schedule a picnic, trip to the zoo, or old-fashioned game night. Sure, everyone is busy. And that’s why parents need to schedule family time with intention. This time is more important than soccer practice and music lessons and should occur every week. Except for emergencies, don’t invite screens to take part in this coveted time.
Keep screens off the dinner table
Make a habit of eating as a family as often as possible. Place your food on a flat surface. Look at one another. Talk. You’ll be amazed at how deep your connections become with this one simple rule.
Keep screens out of the bedroom
Light from the screen stimulates your pineal gland and fools your brain into thinking it’s still day time. It also robs you of the sleep needed to feel refreshed and function at work or school the next day. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock and don’t charge it on the bedside stand. Keep televisions and video games out of the bedroom too.
Following these rules isn’t easy… for our kids or for ourselves. But it’s time to stand our ground and take our families back, and limiting screen time is a sure fire way of accomplishing this goal.
About Mike Patrick
Dr. Mike is an emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and host of PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. Each week, PediaCast covers news parents can use, answers listener questions, and delivers interviews with pediatric experts on a variety of topics. Dr. Mike is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, where he serves as a faculty advisor for medical students. On the home front, he is married with two kids: a college-aged daughter and a son in high school. Prior to working in the emergency department, Dr. Mike spent 10 years in a busy private practice, a time he says most prepared him for the practical advice he shares on PediaCast. Dr. Mike also has an interest in rollerskating. He learned to walk with skates on his feet, and his first job (age 10) was as a disc jockey at his hometown roller skating rink. He has also worked as a DJ at two radio stations, experiences which further prepared him to host PediaCast!
No compensation was received for this guest post.