We’ve all been there. Your loved ones are finally together, but most of them are completely checked out somewhere online or in the depths of a video game. Or maybe trying to get in on all the online holiday sales?
The holidays are usually about connection and joy, aren’t they? And maybe chocolate, Baileys, and sugar cookies too. But when we sink into the ever-so-enticing (and addictive) land of social media, internet browsing, and video games, it’s almost impossible to feel connected in the ways we’d like to.
So. My challenge to you is to intentionally work toward creating a holiday season with less technology. No, this doesn’t mean demanding a family-strike. And no, it’s not about making yourself miserable when all you really want to do is take a break and catch up on Netflix.
What it means is to put some thought into how you can manage technology so that you don’t come out of the season actually feeling more disconnected. Here are some ideas to get you started:
How To Enjoy The Holiday Season With Less Technology: 8 Strategies
1. Create holiday tech-etiquette guidelines
The holidays are not a free-for-all! Yes, they are fun. Yes, the rules change. But it’s not time to throw all your hard parenting work out the door. And on top of that, it’s often a very special time for families (maybe it’s your only vacation this year!), so you need find a way to protect this time and not give it all away to electronic devices.
One way to do that is to create a list of guidelines that outlines your family tech etiquette. Think of this as manners for technology, and ask yourself “how can we use tech in a polite and respectful way?”
Some of these will be the same as your normal tech etiquette rules, but there might be a few to add as well. My favourites are: phones live on the charging station; no phones at the table; no one walks around the house staring at their phones; the people in the room take precedence over people online.
2. Maintain and enforce normal limits.
One of my most important tips for parents who want to get control over how their kids use technology is to establish clear expectations about what’s appropriate and allowed, make these expectations visible somewhere, and then follow-through on these expectations.
For example, let’s say you decide that your son can play up to 2 hours of video games a day during the holiday break. You’ll also need to make it clear what will happen if he doesn’t turn the game off at the time limit, and then follow-through every time. Technology is still a privilege, even during the holiday season.
Sure, you might lighten up a bit because they have much more free time. But, make sure you are still clear with expectations and following through with consequences. This will make it easier once your get back into “real life” after the New Year.
3. Make a holiday charging station
While I always advocate for a family charging station (these ones are amazing!), what do you think about having a charging station (or maybe you call it a parking lot?) for everyone’s tech when they come to your home? Clearly you cannot demand that everyone leaves their phones at the door, but what this does do is suggest that your home isn’t all about the smartphone. Maybe people will think twice before they sit in the sofa during family time and surf their phones.
4. Fill up your calendar
There a something called the “additive model” where you actually focus on filling yp your time with things that you actually want, rather than focusing on all the things you do not want. So in other words, fill up your holiday time with actives and events that you know will help you feel connected to your family, and the time to sit around with technology will naturally reduce.
Think tech-free activities like: board games, playing outside, decorating for the holidays, cooking and baking, doing something charitable. Maybe you go skating, or see the festive lights? Think about the fun activities that your kids have been asking about, is there anything there that you’d like to do? And be sure to set some expectations of what happens with electronic devices during this time.
5. Go where the wifi is weak.
Sometimes we need a little help from beyond ourselves to maintain tech-life balance. When there is no wifi, people are pretty limited (unless they want to run their data off the charts). So think about this suggestion if it’s in the budget. Maybe you head out to a ski cabin where there’s no signal and where the focus is really about a healthy activity. Even going out for a quick snowshoe or cross-country ski might do the trick.
[bctt tweet=”To feel more connected with your loved ones over the holidays, go where the wifi is weak” username=”kateborsato”]
6. Use technology in a connecting way
Are there ways that you can actually connect with your kids and other family members through technology? For instance, some parents play video games with their kids as a way of getting to know their world, joining them in the excitement, and trying to understand the appeal. It’s a great way to position yourself beside your child, rather than against your child, which is particularly important for when you want to make some changes around tech-use.
Theres many ways that you can enjoy tech together, like watching movies, YouTube videos, listening to music, gaming together, the list goes on and on. Consider alternating between who gets to pick (the movie, game, YouTube meme, etc) so your kids feel like they’re ‘driving’ too.
7. Have designated tech-time each day
Consider setting a time where the household is tech-free, and after that point, there’s no limits (other than your usually tech safety and bedtime rules). Show your family the value of spending time together without being plugged in, and then (as above), model that moderately using technology is totally fine.
Maybe you decide there’s no tech from 2pm- 7pm but before or after are okay. Think about what works for you and what is reasonable for your family and start there. There are no rules about what works, but rather, it’s all about you knowing what you family needs and what would fit best.
8. Start with you
Sometimes we can get really excited about making a change with our family, only to find out that literally no one else is on board (including your partner). This can be so challenging, especially when you are really passionate about making a change. In reality, you can’t make others change if they don’t want to. BUT, the good news is that you can make a change within yourself that will certainly have some kind of impact on the rest of your family.
Because the family operates as a system where each family member impacts all other members, it is literally impossible to make a change that won’t be felt by everyone. So, if you feel passionate about improving how you engage with technology, then go for it! Let it be your goal and then sit back at watch what happens with everyone else.
At the very least, your family will become aware that working toward tech-life balance is something that people actually do (rather than just mindlessly giving more and more time to tech). They might even raise their own awareness of tech-use and consider making a change down the road. And, if they do, you’ll have the advantage of already “walking-the-talk.”
It’s All About Balance
I’m all about moderation, really. None of these strategies require that you completely cut yourself or your family off from technology. That’s just not realistic, and not remotely fun! This is all about finding balance, raising awareness, and making choices around how much time you and your family devote to tech and monitoring how that effects your family connection.
Looking for additional strategies to achieve tech-life balance? Check out my Parents’ Guide to Managing Tech in the home.
I’d love to hear from you. How have your managed technology during past holidays? What tips can you share about keeping moderate with kids and tech?