This post is sponsored by Google
Have you ever thought about the role technology plays in your life? Living a digital life is exciting but also complicated. Digital devices make us more productive, help us stay connected, allow us to keep learning, and provide a much-needed break from reality. Our phones are the first things we look at when we wake up in the morning and the final thing we glance at before going to bed but are you in control of technology or is technology in control of you?
As parents who want to get our kids to unplug more, it’s a challenge to take charge of our digital lives. There’s always another email to answer, texts that come in at all hours, and social media platforms that keep us scrolling by design. We have good intentions about disconnecting, often talking to our kids about digital safety and screen time, but how much are we really unplugging?
10 Tools That Will Help You Take Charge of Your Digital Life
Part of being tech savvy is knowing what tools are at our disposal to help manage our time on digital devices. Here’s a look at 10 helpful tools that you can start using now to be more intentional about your digital life and ways you can use your experience to teach your kids to do the same.
Examine Your Relationship with Technology Through a Self-Reflection
No one likes to use a critical eye to evaluate their own screen time but examining our own behaviors is an important first step in taking charge of your digital life. Google’s Digital Wellbeing site has a free 8 question Self-Reflection Tool that’s available to help you evaluate your current experience with technology.
Being honest with yourself through the Self-Reflection tool is a quick and easy way to start thinking about your relationship with technology especially since tips generated at the end are designed to help you achieve your personal sense of wellbeing.
Get an Overview of Time Spent on Your Device with Digital Wellbeing Dashboard
Numbers don’t lie and if you’re looking to know exactly how many hours and minutes you’ve spent on your device, the free Digital Wellbeing app from Google can help. Android’s Digital Wellbeing tools give you a daily view of how often you check your phone and how frequently you use different apps.
At a glance you can see exactly how much time you’ve spent on your device answering emails, browsing the web, texting, accessing documents in Google Drive, scheduling through calendar features, and watching YouTube videos.
Perhaps you’re ok with what you see or horrified. Knowing exactly how we’re using our phones can be a catalyst for change as we look towards achieving a better balance for digital wellness.
Pro parenting tip: Use Digital Wellbeing and Family Link to examine screentime together
If your family is working towards making healthy decisions about balancing screen time and other activities, it’s worth sharing how you’re spending time on your devices with your kids. This opens the door for a conversation about how they’re spending their time too. Just as we’re examining time spent on our devices with the Digital Wellbeing dashboard, your kids can do the same through the free Family Link app from Google.
Family Link’s View Activity Reports feature provides a window into app use. This information can be used to show your child exactly how much time they’re spending on their favorite apps.
Set Limits for Time Spent on Apps
Find yourself scrolling through your Facebook feed mindlessly or feeling a sense of FOMO when you look at everyone’s Instagram photos? Using the information from the Digital Wellbeing dashboard, you can set limits with Daily App timers. By setting a time limit on each app, you regain control over precious minutes of your day.
Found in the Digital Wellbeing & parental controls, this feature enables you to control how much time you spend in each app. When you reach your daily limit, the app closes and the icon dims.
Pro parenting tip: Set app limits for yourself and your kids
As a bonus, you can also set time limits for your kids devices with Family Link.
Setting time limits as a family can help ease the pain of the difficulty of shutting off since you can do it together. Plus, you’re able to be an example for your kids and practice what you preach!
Customize Your Notifications
One of my biggest distractions is from notifications. Push alerts on my phones about weather, traffic, and social media updates, texts from local retailers trying to incentivize me with offers, and pop-up windows in my Chrome browser just got to be too much so I customized my notifications in order to limit distractions. I get notifications that are important to me, but I’ve also been able to customize what they look like and how often I see them.
I’ve unsubscribed from text alerts, turned notifications off for certain apps, and only get texts from friends and family members. I love being able to see the alerts I want to see because this simple act has helped me focus my attention to minimize distractions and be more present.
Spend Less Time in Your Inbox
Even if we’re trying to spend less time on our devices, we subconsciously open our inboxes just to check. Gmail features a number of tools that enable us to regain control over our inboxes. Here’s a rundown of 3 essential tools you need to know about and how they can work for you!
- High Priority Notifications— If you don’t want to miss those important emails from your boss but could do without the PTA volunteer sign up lists and sale alerts that just tempt you to spend your hard-earned cash, turn on High Priority Notifications. High Priority Notifications enables allows you to limit the number of email alerts you receive and will notify you of essential emails from contacts you designate. After all, you can always sign up for the PTA bake sale later!
- Draft Now, Send Later— Why is it that we feel compelled to send emails as soon as we’re done writing them? This lets people know that we work well after hours and not only sets the expectation that you’re always available but also compels them to respond quickly. We can end this vicious email cycle thanks to Draft Now, Send Later.
- Auto Reply— I’ll let you in on a little secret….Auto Reply is a favorite of mine that’s not just for Out of Office replies! Sure, Vacation Responder can be used for that to establish expectations that you’re OOO and not going to get back to people right away but why not use it for shorter or longer periods of time too? I’ve engaged it on days where I’ve just needed some personal time off and used it during the summer months when my work schedule changes and I want to spend more time with my kids.
Prompt Your Body to Wind Down
Studies have shown that the blue light emitting from our devices can trick our bodies and prevent us from winding down at night and getting ready for sleep. Engaging the Wind Down features on your phone helps you disconnect from your phone and avoid interruptions while you sleep.
- Grayscale— If you’re a visual person like me, Grayscale can help because it turns your screen black and white to reduce the attention-grabbing nature of colorful app icons that could serve as a distraction.
- Do Not Disturb— Just like setting a door hanger on the outside of your hotel room door notifies passers-by that you don’t want to be disturbed, the Do Not Disturb feature on my phone hides all notifications from my screen. This means I won’t be woken up with text alerts or phone calls from anyone besides those designated as Favorites (sorry but only my family makes this list!) so I can get a good night’s sleep. If I don’t even want those alerts to come through, I can always set my phone to Airplane Mode. Note for high school parents in need of early morning alarms- they’ll still go off when DND and Airplane Mode are enabled!
Pro parenting tip: Help your kids wind down by setting bedtimes for their devices
Just as we’re limiting our own use of certain apps and using tools to help our bodies wind down, we can encourage our kids to do the same by setting time limits and a bedtime for their device. Family Link lets you set a daily screentime limit for each day of the week so when their time is up, the device is locked, and they can only make calls if they need to.
By setting time limits and a bedtime for your child’s device, they learn to balance on and offline time. Just remember that screen time limits differ for every family and should be revisited based on the age of your child and their needs.
Fill Out a Digital Wellbeing Plan
With 84% of parents about our kids’ tech use and 58% of us concerned about the time we spend with tech, now is the time to use these tools to adjust our habits for the better especially if we want our kids to change theirs. There are no shortage of resources that can help families learn to manage digital habits together as we try to achieve digital wellbeing and Our Family’s Digital Wellbeing Plan is one of my favorite new resources.
This free downloadable PDF from Family Link is a working document for families aiming to find a balance with technology. Since every family’s digital life and concept of balance looks different, I encourage you to visit complete this now and revisit it later, especially as your kids get older.
You’ll also want to read my past posts that can help you and your kids manage digital life:
- How to Teach Your Kids to Unplug in Favor of Digital Wellbeing
- Giving Your Child Their First Cell Phone? Read This First!
Google’s Digital Wellbeing Family Guide is also a great resource for tips on how to tackle tough topics, guidance on sparking productive conversations, and identifying healthy habits for every age and stage of your family. More wellbeing tips and tools can be found to help you and your family at wellbeing.google.
In addition to helping you manage your digital life through digital wellbeing tools, Google has a wealth of free resources designed for parents, kids, and teachers that can be used to:
- Learn more about how to Be Internet Awesome with your family at co/BeInternetAwesome
- Put your kindness skills to the test by playing Interland with your kids at co/KindKingdom
- Disempower bullying behavior and encourage healthy, productive interactions this school year by sharing Be Internet Awesome’s online curriculum with your child’s teachers
I am compensated for my participation in the Google Family Partner program. This post is sponsored by Google but all opinions are my own.