As a dad, I find myself wondering what all of this technology, we have been discussing the past couple of days, is doing to my family.
I am not alone. I cannot begin to tell you how many people have asked me for advice on how to get their kids off of their phone or video game long enough to eat dinner.
These days, a family meal in a restaurant is not complete without phones all around the table and young thumbs sending out twaddle to friends. Date nights usually involve an interruption or two from something work related, the husband with a device glued to his head (this happens to women too).
When communication technology begins to break down communication, there is clearly a problem.
What is a family to do?
I say, set some boundaries. Perhaps some of the following thoughts might be helpful?
- Turn off the phones during meal time. If you are having dinner with someone, then have dinner with them. Forget whoever is calling. If you need to talk to someone else, invite them to join you for dinner.
- Leave your phone at home or in the car when possible. You say, “It is not possible.” Are you forgetting something? If you are over thirty, you spent at least half of your life without access to a mobile phone. You survived.
- Limit your kids number of texts. I meet kids all the time who are distracted and unfocused. Is it any wonder, considering they are allowed to check-out every time their hand goes off with an incoming lol. I’m guessing you pay the bill. That is called leverage where I come from.
- No TV’s or computers in the bedrooms. My wife and I decided when we first got married to never have a TV in our bedroom. That has been a great decision for us. You might make a different choice. The point is not where you have your technology located in your home. The point is are you willing to set some limits and boundaries on its use.
- No calls or texts after 9:00 PM. There is a reason your phone has an off button. Use it.
- Have a central location for charging devices and require them to be “turned in” each night at a certain time. No one needs to have phone rays being emitted from their night stand. If you leave your kids technology use unsupervised, don’t be surprised when they end up in trouble.
- Keep computers in a high traffic area and filter the content. Pornography will blow up your family and lead to an addiction. High character leaders set up safe guards to protect their integrity.
- Talk to each other. “What was the highlight of your day?” is one of my favorite questions. Ask it and then sit back and listen. Please don’t allow your kid to text the answer across the table!
This list is not comprehensive and not everything on my list is right for your family. Spend some time thinking through your context and what kind of family you want to have and then agree upon a plan to get you there. That is called leadership. Remember?
A better, more connected, family is possible, but only if you create a healthy environment that fosters communication.
I don’t pretend to be some family expert, but I was raised in a good home. We didn’t have any cells, had limits on our television viewing, and had no answering machine. But somehow I never felt like we were disconnected from anything. In fact, it appeared to me we always had plenty of friends. We even knew our neighbors. Those are the people who live next door to you.
I do remember many family dinners when the phone would ring and ring in the background, while our conversation and laughter would drown it out.
“Should someone answer that?” one of us kids would ask. “Probably some telemarketer.” my mom would say.
I didn’t know what a telemarketer was, but I felt sorry for anyone who had to miss dinner because they were making phone calls.
I still do.
What other boundaries would you add to my list?
Randy is an author, speaker, executive coach, and the CEO of InteGREAT Leadership. He invests his time encouraging leaders around the world.