Everyone remembers the show Leave it to Beaver where Ward would come home after work, sit down in his recliner and begin reading the newspaper. June would be in the kitchen baking something and Wally and the Beave would be outside causing some sort of trouble. These days the picture would be something more like this: Ward would walk through the door talking on his cell phone, Wally and The Beave would be watching television or texting their friends and June would be on the tablet in the kitchen looking up take-out restaurants.
It's great that technology has improved over the last half-century. But, with all the endless possibilities of connections through a screen many families have started having difficulties connecting with each other. Here are a few tips that will help you and your family unplug so you can plug in to each other.
1. Set timers for cable and internet
Back in the day, cartoons only used to come on right after school and on Saturday mornings. After the cartoons were over, it went to "boring" programming that children didn't like. So children just found other stuff to do. These days, there is no end to programming for children. There are dozens of kid-friendly channels that run all day every day. And if children can't find anything on cable, there's TV on demand through the internet.
Setting a timer on your internet and cable provider means you only allow TV and internet at certain tims of the day. After that, you and your children will have to find other entertaining things to do. There are ways that parents can set timers through parental monitors from your cable provider and ISP. If you're not that technologically savvy to set it up yourself, give them a call. They can usually help you set it up in just a few minutes.
Worried about blocking off the internet or TV in case of unpredictable times when you'll need it (such as book reports, getting an e-mail to your boss, etc?). Don't sweat it, most ISP and cable providers will allow you to use a password to get on during these unpredictable times.
2. Limit screen time
Even after the internet and cable have a timer, families can still find things that are distracting. Tablets, laptops and gaming consoles all still have entertainment that don't rely on the internet. Make a rule in your house that limits screen time generally. The American Pediatric Association recommends no more than two hours of screen time a day for children. This is a good guide to help you know how much time in front of screens your children (and you) should have.
3. Create a family identity
When children hear about these first two ideas, you'll probably get an ear full of complaints about how that's so unfair and how boring things will be because of it. One way to avoid these complaints is to create a family identity of fun things you can do to together. A family identity is something you and your family all unite around that you enjoy.
Think about it, you have your children in activities because that's what they enjoy. Your family should have a past time you all enjoy together, too. That's called a family identity. Creating a family identity will help you have something predictable and reliable that you can all do together instead of watching TV or other solitary past times - and you won't have to hear your children whine about having the TV or internet turned off.
4. Be okay with boredom
Families don't need to be doing something every minute of the day. In fact, that can create a lot of stress and anxiety. There's value in boredom. When children get bored they learn creative ways to entertain themselves. They find people to talk to or find new hobbies to keep them occupied.
When I was a kid, and nothing good was on TV, I would go walk around my yard bored. It wasn't long until one of my siblings came along who was bored, too. And we wouldn't stay bored for long after that. We always found something to do. Sometimes it was just collecting sticks or trying to catch frogs. But these are some of the best memories I have - better than conquering a level or watching a re-run.
There are lots of good things that come from the information age. Many of these things are good for your family. But it's important not to forget to unplug them sometimes so you can plug in to the more important things - each other.