How to Be a Family w/the Distractions of Smartphones, iPads, Laptops and TV

Today, I read the first section of the Boston Sunday Globe, while two of my kids played a maze game on the iPad and the baby played with his Thomas trains.  Missed Connections: As screens and gadgets increasingly claim our eyes and time, shared family experience is feeling the squeeze by Joseph P. Kahn caught my eye, because I worry about not being present with my family.  For example, last night we watched The Wizard of Oz as a family, but midway I picked up my iPhone and started tweeting.  My husband had to alert me to snuggle my 6 year old, who was freaking out about the flying monkeys but I was too busy tweeting to realize.  Oops.

The family profiled in the story were good sports, showing us teens who text constantly, a dad always checking sports scores and a mom with the TV blaring most of the day because she likes the noise (Facebook, work email and other digital distractions were a part of the story as well.  I know the noise all too well- I grew up with the TV on constantly and until (again, my husband pointing it out) I realized that the constant din wasn’t good for me or for my kids. 

Technology allows us to be many places at once, like the dads who brag that they can make it to their kids’ games because they have their BlackBerry.  FYI, there is nothing more douchey than seeing a biz casual dad in the stands on a conference call or tapping at his iPhone during his kid’s soccer game.  

It’s all about being more self-aware.  And trying to be more vigilant. 

Maybe instead of multitasking with your Smartphone, how about staying at work for most of the season and come to one game where you can watch and interact with the other parents? 

And for the teens (which I don’t have yet, thank God), a mom I know told me that she makes her daughter leave her cell phone on the kitchen island overnight so she’s not up until all hours texting.  My husband’s aunt told us that she kept laptop use for homework in the kitchen or other common areas so she could monitor that her son wasn’t on Facebook but was working on his essay for English class.   We try to keep the iPad time for the kids to 20 minutes via the kitchen timer (but sometimes my husband forgets to set the timer while he is reading and responding to email).  I need to remind myself to shut down my laptop so I am not checking Facebook responses to my adorable toddler when I should be interacting with said toddler.  On date night with my husband, it is not about checking in to Foursquare at the cool restaurant we are at, it is about gazing into his eyes. 

The Boston Globe article made me think about how our family can go off into separate parts of the house and be distracted by technology and how we can be together more.  It makes me think about parameters I need to set for myself most of all. 

How do you rein in digital distractions? 

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