And how to reduce the impact

Written by Joy Fairhall

The internet has bought the world closer together however, in our homes, it can do the exact opposite with our family life often pushed apart.

Who isn’t familiar with children with their little noses deep into the device of their choice whether phone, tablet or even gaming on a TV. Adults are often the same with their devices never far from hand, often not even noticing how often they glance or use their own devices while going about their usual home life. Do you ever wonder what impact these little electronic pieces of equipment are having on your family life?

Firstly, let’s start with the Australian guidelines that are recommended for children. These guidelines include watching television, phones, tablets, DVD” s, computers and electronic games.

  • Under 2 years old – ZERO screen time
  • 2-5 years – 1-hour p/day.
  • 5-17 years – Less than two hours p/day.

While I understand there are times that for your own sanity you plop your kids in front of a TV or tablet, and that’s ok we’re all human. It’s more about how often we find ourselves doing it that can cause an impact. Also, in addition for homework requirements device use is often quite important for researching etc. this time is not included in the recommended times above.

So, what is the Impact? At number one is the impact to communication also affected is quality time together, distraction, altered moods, physical effects and focus to name a few.

How can a device in our homes decrease communication? Simply by having your eyes on a screen means that you aren’t focusing on what’s happening right in front of you. During a normal conversation with your family you would be connecting with them by looking at the person, hearing what they are saying and responding accordingly. If a device is in your hand or within reach the impact in connecting is reduced compared to when these devices are around. I’m sure you have found yourself glancing at your phone, becoming distracted and then having to ask the person right in front of you to repeat what they’d said as you lost focus on their conversation, I know I have, even when it’s on silent.

Devices can also impact moods which is often not thought of as a side effect of device usage. Think about the times you might have played a game and found yourself getting increasingly frustrated when you can't find the gold coin, the door to the rainbow or that magic jewel and I'm talking about both parents and children here. Realistically it’s the amount of information and the distractions rather than the actual devices themselves that can affect your mood - your mind simply becomes overwhelmed and exhausted!

Lets talk about those very special moments when your child is completely focused on telling you something, looking up at you with their earnest little faces? These are moments to be treasured and become rarer as they grow into teenagers. I wonder have ever lost one of these special moments as a parent with your child when your phone beeps? Devices can really interrupt and unbalance everyone in the safe haven of our home.  

So while these devices are fantastic for helping kids with homework, for keeping in touch with friends over social media and for increasing and connecting us to the big wide world from our own homes how can we reduce their impact on our family home, on our family life and the beautiful quality time we should be spending together?

Creating a communal family plan for device usage is a great start and its not as hard you might imagine. The key here is communal, it must be created and agreed upon together. Device boundaries don’t even have to be rigid, in fact the more rigid the more likely they won’t be followed by everyone.  Afterall we all like time on our devices for play as well as often needing them for work even after hours.  

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A simple way to create a simple easy to read plan is to head over to a great site called Healthy Children* where you’ll find great online tools for not only calculating device usage but also to create a family plan. The family plan can be created together right online and personalised with your family name, children’s names and activities with the final result being a detailed specific plan ready to print out and go. You can add activities or take away suggested activities it’s a great tool for everyone. Here’s a sample plan below created with the online tool.

Here’s 10 tips you can do once your plan is in place.

  • Unplug every day for a least 1 hour
  • Play a board or card game instead of an electronic game – Go Fish anyone?
  • Write a note to each member of the family sharing something you love about them - feel that connection grow
  • Spend time colouring together - buy large poster colouring sheets so you can all colour together
  • Play a game of ‘I spy’
  • Play a drawing game – One person starts a drawing then folds the paper in half and passes it on and so on until everyone has had a turn
  • Set up a jigsaw and leave it where everyone can add to it as they walk by
  • Make dinnertime a family time by preparing one meal a week, or more, together
  • Read a book
  • Play a game of hopscotch outside

Time spent with family is such a special time and everything we can do to make time together happy and joyful is so important. Let’s all switch off the devices, for a short time, and feel the beautiful family connection return and always remember to Fill Everyday with Joy.

*Healthy Children website

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