Real Connection In A Connected World – Navigating Screens as a Family (Episode 205)
We live in a super connected world...and yet, with the addition of screen time in our homes, the true connection of two people in real life can be lacking. So how do you pull back on the screen time and foster connection face-to-face? How do you pull your family back in when screens have taken over?
What is Demanding Your Attention?
In Episode 172, we dug deep into the distinction of finding true fulfillment in life versus simply feeling good - and how add more to both. While we focused more on career and calling in the previous episode, we wanted to bring this back this time with a focus specifically on screen time. How can screens add to - and take away - from a life we thrive in?
Think about how much screen time has taken over in your life. How many notifications do you get on your devices? What if you simply did one thing - turned off all notifications? What if you (gasp) only pulled up an app when you wanted to use it, and not when it "dinged" to your attention?
Pay attention to how much you use your phone to capture what is in the present moment...and pull yourself out of just that?
Are you watching - or engaging - in the present moment?
How often do you pick up the phone and take a picture of every moment? Have you had those times when your little ones bring to your attention how often you capture the moment?
I remember my toddler stopping herself in the middle of a sweet moment to remind me to take a picture of her. She, too, saw my attention more on capturing the moments vs. embracing the spontaneity - and, with all the maturity of a 2-year-old, was perfectly happy to sacrifice the moment to stare at the little screen with a picture of her face instead.
Nothing quite so jarring as watching your child get more excited about seeing a replica of a moment on a screen than actually being IN the moment.
How often are family times monopolized by a cell phone - someone lost on it, or snapping pictures every two seconds? How many candid shots do you have vs. staging everyone for the perfect picture?
What are you prioritizing?
Try a Bite
Instead of being full-tilt-boogie and being a teetotaler on all or nothing, look at a "try a bite" approach. What if, just for today, we put the screens down? What if we try doing game night every Wednesday of this month?
Instead of being extreme with it, try a sample, or just a taste. It's a much easier bite to chew that way. You - and your kids - are more likely to accept it that way, and make it into a habit.
It may be that one little thing can make a world of difference.
- turning off notifications on your phone
- setting your phone to "do not disturb" during certain hours
- designate a spot to "check in" electronics during certain hours or off-limits areas for them (like the dinner table or bedroom).
- When you capture a shot in the moment, simply take the picture - no editing, posting or doing anything with it - just a quick shot and get back into the moment real-time
- Set a timer when you are online so screen time doesn't overtake your day
For your children - and even you - if you have to look up to see who is watching or if you're going to get caught, is it really something you need to be doing?
Fail UP - together!
Instead of trying to be perfect or keep yourself on some parent pedestal, be willing to learn and grow together. Instead of an extreme expectation, play with what works together. Allow for the wiggle room of finding out what works.
Relationships don't just happen - they take constant work and finessing as each person is learning and growing. Well, that's life! It is constant finessing and readjusting as all the variables of life ebb and flow. Our job isn't to control it all, and my desire as a parent is not to give my kids all the answers, but simply to give them the tools to seek answers themselves.
Yes, it is so, so critical that you build this in your children. And even more so that you build it in yourself.
Loss is Inevitable
When you don't have another option, it's amazing what you can innovate. When you allow for so many variables, there will always be an excuse or justification for why something won't happen. I hear so many families that say they simply don't know how they could pull their child away from video games, for example.
The harsh reality is that we will all experience losses in our life. It is way more important to me to equip my child with emotional resilience to navigate when life throws them lemons than it is for them to just avoid it at all costs.
We often can't imagine how we could survive if a loved one wasn't around...and then a divorce or death happens and our whole world is rocked. A new reality forms and we figure out how to move forward. If your child cannot handle the loss of a video game, how can you expect them to be equipped for an even bigger loss? Are you giving the tools for resilience to navigate disappointment...or are you just trying to avoid it?
I remember when we had the minivan with the DVD player in it. We started with it only being for long trips. Then we'd play it when we were running errands. And soon enough, it was the begging battle cry every time we got into the van! It drove me crazy, and I felt like we were always battling the daggum screen everywhere now!
Then, one day, the DVD player stopped working. Not only that, so did the radio. And the speakers. So we went from a full entertainment zone in the van to no speakers for anything.
Now, it wasn't me just laying down the law. Now, it flat wasn't an option. And as difficult as I thought it would be, it just wasn't. When the option to watch was eliminated, they got over it. In less than a week I couldn't believe the new games they'd created and the deeper connections they'd fostered from being in the car together with no other distractions!
What I thought was going to be a huge issue actually opened the door for my kids to blow me away with their resilience and ability to adapt and grow. When was the last time you gave your children a chance to show you how they can adapt and bounce in life?
Live Life Like A Video Game
Instead of being so obsessed with a video game at the expense of the real life in front of you, look at your whole life like a video game - there are strategies to keep in mind, and there are seasons/levels in life. And, you only have so much time and life. You have to recharge. You have to refuel, get more supplies, etc. How can you take any aspects of screen time your family loves and see how it can translate to real life? Can you get real life analogies from Minecraft that opens up all kinds of other opportunities to expand a love of the video game to real life?
Just like in real life, clutter can completely take over in the online world as well. We aren't looking to eliminate screen time entirely from our home, and it's important, in our internet-focused society, to instill basic computer and internet literacy in our children.
A buildup of "stuff" can get out of hand. I got on my soapbox about this in the podcast episode that goes along with this post, because I'm dealing with the frustrations of storage accumulation with family members.
What do you do with all those pictures, movies, and files? Do they just pile up until you have to buy more storage to pay for the stuff you're now too overwhelmed to weed through? Do you have any organization to keep clutter at bay on your screens?
I'm navigating this with my 14-year-old, who loves to take pictures and video, and then has a whole dropbox account that is already full. How will she manage it so she's not just paying for more and more storage her whole life? How will she determine what to hold on to and let go of? Just like in real life, there are tools and resources to better help us manage what we choose to hold on to.
These are the key things every family needs to address when it comes to screen time in their home -
- What is its purpose? What does it add to the family?
- What is a reasonable time to be on a screen vs. off? Do you have parameters on no-screen times, or is it always open-ended screen time?
- Have you talked with your children about internet safety, grooming, online predators and more? Here are some top tips for parents on helping your kids understand the online world. Make sure you - and your children - know the ramifications of what they post online, and the darker side of it and what to watch for. There are many, many resources online for this.
Live Life Together
Are you going to just set your life aside to manage your child's, or can you actually live life together? Yes, we have to move forward as we're helping them do the same. The more we openly live life together - the more I take the time to explain vs. steamroll, seek to understand vs. attack, and educate on the why vs. demand - the more my child sees me living life in this way (and thus models it themselves), and, the less volatile our decision-making is since everyone is in the know.
We don't fear disappointing our kids. They get it all the time. So do we! The weather doesn't cooperate. A mood is so off it completely skews the fun of the event. We have a change in plans for whatever reason. We simply look for a new opportunity to find joy.
So that means that, as I'm working, there are times I have them peek over my shoulder and see what I'm doing online. I share with the family my top management tips so I know all my passwords (check out LastPass), where we can store our pictures and files (Dropbox and Google Photos), and how I clean out my computer by deleting files, checking for malware, and restarting my devices regularly.
We navigate the ups and downs of screen time just as much as the physical world. We can experience the whole gamete of emotions through screen time as well - so what do we do with that?
How do we as parents let social media affect us? How do you manage your devices and keeping them running smoothly without getting bogged down? Or do they build up and pile up with "stuff" that is ignored until it's too overwhelming to deal with? Does that happen anywhere in real life as well?
If we want to get real with how screens can be a positive or negative in our home, our first inventory is on ourselves and our relationship with it. Chances are, your children will follow suit.
Go back to these key questions -
What is your purpose for screen time in your home?
How have you "dummy proofed" yourself so you can be a positive example of screen time in your home?
Are you equipping your kids to navigate disappointment and not always getting what they want in life?
Look beyond the screen time to add in some other areas of family connection. Make a consistent family game night. Pull out a community puzzle for people to work on whenever it's convenient. Learn some magic tricks! Cook and bake together - we give little goody bags to neighbors to spread the sweets out a bit.
And, if you do choose screen time, can you do it with conversation included? Do you talk about what you watch and give space to "defrag"? Do you watch shows together? We often pause and comment or carry on conversation afterward. Get involved with screen time together.
Get focused. Get present. Pay attention to how much YOU are looking up vs. at a screen. Remember those beautiful humans in your home, and pay attention to what they are seeing in you, and how engaged you are together vs. living side by side. Get to truly know one another so you can celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste
Dig Deeper with These Posts and Episodes:
- Feeling Good…or Fulfilled? (Episode 172)
- Enjoy the silence
- Think Three Times, Speak Only Once (Episode 46)
- Back To Basics – with Goals and Life! (Episode 129)
- Have Life Seasons Got You Stuck In A Funk? (Episode 179)
- True Parent Struggles: Screentime (Episode 90)
- Connecting, Screen-time, Challenges and Overwhelm (Episode 72)
- The Case for Screen Time
- Lessons Learned After 200 Episodes (Episode 200)