As a parent, technology journalist, and author of a new book on logging off from excessive internetting, I’m often asked, “What can I do to get my kids off their phone?”
Having researched the subject and experimented with connectivity strategies over the last decade, I can tell you first-hand that the answer won’t come easy. But it can be found.
The first and arguably most challenging step is to lead by example. So instead of “Do as I say, not as I do,” show your kids what life can be like without the constant interruption and distraction that smartphones, digital work, social media have introduced into our lives. Demonstrate what a heads-up (as opposed to head-down) life can look like. Portion-control your own technology first.
You can do this by turning off all audible and visual alerts on your devices, then communicating with bosses, loved ones, and those closest to you that you’re distancing yourself from your phone. Not entirely—but that they’ll need to call you the old fashioned way if they need to get an immediate response from you. (Otherwise it will have to wait several hours, overnight, over the weekend, or even until you get back from vacation.)
Next, you’ll need to show your children what an offline life looks like. Eating more meals together, for instance. Hiking. Fitness. Playing sports. Performance art. Literature. Socializing. Gardening. Song and dance. Board games. Anything that doesn’t involve our phones, really.
Of course, as their guardian, you’ll need to also set boundaries on your children’s media use. Yes, they’ll likely throw fits and tantrums after restricting their technology access. But stay strong. You’ll be amazed how quickly children (and even teenagers and adults) can adapt. You’ll also be amazed by their improved, less-demanding behavior.
More than anything, to get our kids off of their phones, we must teach them (again by showing, not telling) that offline is better, and that you’re committed to helping them succeed in creating things, experiencing things, and contributing to the world in the way they’re most passionate about.
To do that, we must redefine our relationship with our phones, social media, and internet use. Like Google Maps, these powerful technologies should be collectively viewed as enabling tools that enhance our offline pursuits, productivity, and in-person relationships—not disabling distractions that lead to a passive (if not meaningless) modern existence.
Again, this is not easy. But if the last 10 years of my life are any indication, it is possible. With your disciplined and calculated example of appropriate phone use, I hope your offline and parenting life will be as blissful as I know they can be.
About the author: Blake Snow has written and published thousands of featured articles for half of the top twenty U.S. media and leading Fortune 500 companies. His first book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, is available on paperback and Kindle.