Did you know the average adult spends almost six hours per day on digital media with over half of that being on their smartphone? Some reports indicate teens spend close to nine hours on digital media entertainment and tweens are close behind with an average of six hours.
Can we learn how to establish good technology habits and regain lost hours every day?
In this video, I share with you the three questions I ask myself and teach my children to ask themselves so we can live a balanced life and use technology wisely. Plus, I’ll share with you how wise technology use can have a major impact on your life.
Do I fully engage in real life conversations?
Have you been in a room with family or friends and realized over half of the people were looking at their phone instead of engaging in the conversation? Me too!
I’m sure you, like me, also realized you were one of the ones looking at your phone. If you are on your phone or tablet while having a conversation with someone else, you are effectively communicating that you would prefer to be doing anything other than talking to that person.
It’s difficult to put the phone away. We’ve been trained to listen for that ding! We want to know what is going on when it happens. But the reality is that we do not need to be immediately available to everyone.
I have turned off all of the notifications possible. We have been trained to listen for notifications of all sorts—text, call, email, social media, apps. This is a new phenomenon. I remember a time in the past when I intentionally allowed phone calls to roll to my answering machine so I could call someone back later at my convenience. I’ve gone back to the good ‘ole days and turned off all notifications except phone calls and texts. (And there are days I mute a text conversation if a group gets too chatty.)
Another way I fully engage in conversations is to utilize the silent or DND during meals or other times I want to fully engage with someone. I can be fully present and not worry about interruptions. This is also helpful when I want to focus on a project and do some deep work.
Just like giving my full attention to a conversation with someone I dive deep in a conversation via my phone or a work session on my computer. It is difficult to do two things at once so when my children want my attention, I ask them to wait a minute while I finish the task I am working on so I can then put it down and give them my full attention. This required some training. I started by having them place their hand on my arm or by standing next to me without talking so I would know they wanted my attention. I could then acknowledge them and ask them to wait a minute. This was also helpful when training them not to interrupt my conversations.
You will find that when you start being fully present your relationships will be deeper. You will be able to connect better with your children and they will likely start to open up more and want to tell you more as you express an interest in their lives.
Do I have boundaries in place to limit my technology use?
If I’m not careful, I end up checking things on my phone when I have a few spare moments. Have you ever checked something on your phone “real quick” and then realized you just spent a half hour doing it? It can become a big black hole. It is important to have boundaries in place for your technology use so you can use it wisely.
Boundaries will look different for different people. I removed all social media apps from my phone. (You can read more about why I turned my smartphone into an anti-social phone on this post.) I only turn on email when I need to access a coupon or ticket. Then I turn it back off. The draw is just too strong for me to resist without these boundaries in place.
For apps still on my phone, such as YouTube, I try to have boundaries as to when I allow myself to use it. For YouTube, I try to only watch videos while on the elliptical unless I need directions for a project I am working on.
iOS12’s new screen time options provide a lot of resources for making this easier to do. I am thankful that Covenant Eyes has provided these step-by-step video tutorials to make the process easier!
- How to setup screen time and content restrictions on iOS (This is helpful for your device too!)
- How to set up parental controls on iOS
- How to set up parental controls on Android
- How to set up parental controls on Amazon Kindle Fire HD
- How to setup YouTube strict search
Our family also uses Covenant Eyes to help us filter out inappropriate sites and provide a layer of accountability.
When we have boundaries in place, we are much less likely to use technology mindlessly. Being aware of how much time we spend on each app and activity allows us to be intentional and spend our time on what really matters.
Do I engage offline in activities as well as digital ones?
It is so easy today to read a book on a tablet, listen to an audiobook, check your email, and any number of other things. But it is important that we get away from our screens.
There is value in reading an ebook, but I much prefer physical books. I do read ebooks on vacation because it’s just easier to pack them, but I try to read physical books when possible. Not only do I enjoy the tactile experience of reading a physical book, but I also want my children to see me reading. They do not know if I am reading or scrolling through social media if I read on a digital device.
Other activities you can do offline include writing physical letters, brainstorming, and taking notes with pen and paper.
It is also important to schedule time away from technology regularly. Some examples include:
- Daily – use the DND feature at night or during focused work time or school lessons
- Weekly – take a digital sabbath one day a week
- Seasonal – step away from social media for a time
Stepping away from digital media allows your brain an opportunity to reset. You can think, be creative, and be present in the moment.
How to help children develop good technology habits
I use the same procedure to teach my children good technology habits that I use for transferring responsibility for anything to my children.
- Model the behavior
- Provide training
- Help them
- Provide accountability
The video (starting at 15:43) has a more detailed explanation of how I apply this process to teaching my children good technology habits.