Have you ever looked around a restaurant and noticed families sitting at tables… and instead of enjoying each other’s company, they are looking at their phones? Sadly, it’s not just the kids, it’s the parents.

Last week my family was at our favorite Mexican restaurant and I noticed how the adults placed their phones right on the table, almost saying “if someone else better texts me, I am most likely going to answer him or her.”  What a terrible example to set. I think it’s up to us to take the lead and show our kids what’s appropriate technology usage and what’s not.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune by Heidi Stevens titled  Irresistible technology is making our children miss social cues. caught my attention. She referenced the book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and Business of Keeping Us Hooked” by  Adam Alter. The book talks about how how kids that are too engaged in technology lack empathy and social skills. If you don’t have opportunities to practice those skills when you are young, it’s difficult to build them later in life. It also highlights the idea that technology is such a part of our kids’ lives, that we need to be able to understand it and help them maintain boundaries in it’s usage.

Here are some ideas for helping your kids “unplug” from technology:

  • Determine times when screen time is allowed and when it isn’t, for example no technology after 8:00 PM and before 7:00 AM.
  • Put your phone away when you are eating, and make sure that’s a rule for everyone.
  • Offer alternative activities that don’t require any technology, be creative and announce the “no screen time” rule before you start. Board games, crafts, and sports are some good options.
  • Place a hallway table where all phones, computers and I-Pads go at night to charge, no exceptions.
  • Be sure and have all alerts OFF or on vibrate, so no one runs to respond to a “ding”.

Remember to model the behaviors you are looking for in your kids. You might be surprised at how “unplugging” helps everyone in the family. After all, it’s the connections with each other that we are looking for and technology is not needed for that.