Our two oldest children are 20 and 24 years old. They spent their childhood without cell phones, Facebook, Netflix, Snap Chat, Instagram, Twitter, etc., that is until they were about the ages of 12 and 16. That is when they got their first cell phones. They were the last children to grow up through adolescence without these technologies as a part of their everyday lives. My husband and I, of course, spent much of our lives without them. We are the generation that looks back and remembers a time when these things simply didn't exist, and it almost feels like another person lived that life or like it happened in a dream. As we are all well aware, our cell phones are now pretty much a part of our person, almost like a pair of contacts or eyeglasses. We are very aware of where our phone is at all times, and that phone is our life line to one VERY important aspect of our lives... INFORMATION. Let's face it, we grown-ups have some pretty fond memories of "the good old days" when we were unknowingly free from, well, knowing. We could spend all day reminiscing about the simplistic, stress-free sanity we all felt back then, but there is no changing our current times, and, lets be real, I'm dependent. I'm sold. I NEED to know! Don't you? So, now that we find ourselves here in the information age, how can we use it for good and harness it when it tries to disrupt our lives? I'm going to give you a list of ideas. That's all you really need right? Every piece of technology we have has this powerful thing called an OFF button. That OFF button is the harness and reigns with which you can prevent technology from getting control over you.
1. Set aside 1-2 times a day to check social media for personal pleasure. If needed, make it harder to check social media by removing apps from your cell phone that enable you to check it on the go. EEEEK, really? Yes, it feels amazing. I've tried it, and it feels like you are on vacation. Try it for a week or a month. You may never go back! Hey, your kids will thank you! We are on our phones WAY too much, myself included, and our kids and friends suffer for it.
2. Set aside 1-2 times a day to check email, and focus on answering questions immediately and cleaning out your inbox before you are finished. This will keep your email from getting cluttered up. Unsubscribe from anything that you do not love or is not useful.
3. If you are using Twitter, Instagram and/or FB for the free marketing, then limit yourself to using it for a small portion of your day or week, and make sure that you are seeing enough yield for your time spent. Remember to spent 20% of your day getting an 80% yield for yourself, your family, and your community. If it's not worth your time, then there are people to whom you can delegate or hire it out.
4. Remember social etiquette with your phone and devices. Never use it at the dinner table. Never look at your device when someone is speaking to you. Put your phone away when at a social gathering. Teach your children eye contact, and turn your phone ringer OFF whenever you are in any place where it might distract another person.
Boundaries You May Need To Place On Others
1. Wait as LOOOOOOONG as you possibly can before getting your kids hooked on technology. This can start as early as infancy. Yes, we had wooden puzzles that made cow and sheep noises, and no, we did not add the batteries. Yes, the parking garage my sons played with made car wash noises and such, and no, they had no idea this feature existed. Before the age of two, protect your little ones, and make the animal noises yourself with them. Try old school methods until they are the wiser for it. Then, don't sweat it, and if they want the sounds on, go for it. Our kids never knew these toys made sounds, and they don't until this day. We also have a strict rule of being 12 years old before owning a cell phone in our home, and we limit tablet and computer use before grade school. Just hang in there as much as you can; there is no guilt in a parent with a screaming baby using their phone to play Elmo in the grocery store line for sanity's sake.
2. Keep phones out of your kids' rooms at bedtime. Period. The end.
3. No phones while eating, snacking or engulfing food in anyway when you are eating with another person. Use that time to socialize.
4. Try and limit or eliminate children's phone use on short car rides, especially when you are one-on-one in the car. This is a wonderful time to catch up, so ask them questions or have them tell you about their day.
5. Mutually agree on technology boundaries with your spouse, partner, or roommate. Find time to relate and socialize together without the interruption of information.
6. Try a cell phone free day with your family once a month or a cell phone free vacation! I know of families who have done this, and they feel twice as refreshed once they get back. My kids love getting a break from their cell phones on vacation. Remember, they have never known any other world, so the peace and calm and quiet is especially wonderful to them!
Let's face it, the information age is both completely wonderful and completely addicting. By placing some, or all, of the above boundaries on your technology, you can get the benefits of accessible information without it ruling your life and causing a HUGE lack of focus and distraction. Don't beat yourself up. We've all spent too much time scrolling. Practicing healthy boundaries over technology will feel refreshing and give you more time. Share what boundaries have worked for you in the comments below. I would love to hear them!