When it comes to online activity, I’m pretty sure 99% of us would say that we use too much technology. We stare at screens because they can do endless tasks for us, and many of us are now in the position of parents who are modeling what is acceptable digital behavior. Technology isn’t going away, and it helps our lives in countless ways! But, in order to get some digital balance back in your home, I’ve got three questions for you to ask yourself and a few tools to help you find digital balance at home.
This post is sponsored by Google in partnership with the Forward Influence Network. All opinions are my own.
Start with the self reflection tool
This week, I used the self reflection tool from wellbeing.google to assess my relationship with technology. It’s just 8 questions, but the suggestions for me at the end were spot on! For instance, one of the questions asked how much I felt the need to check my phone after a noise or buzz. Since I’m extremely likely to check ANY notification, it recommended I manage all my apps to reduce notifications. I’ve been meaning to do this and am so glad I finally did!
See how much daily screen time you are spending on your phone
When this tool rolled out, I think people were a little shocked. How could 10 min here and 30 minutes there add up so quickly? It’s a great eye opener tool. Below is not a screenshot from my phone, but it is an example of what this tool can show you.
Q1: How would you feel if your kids used technology as much as you do when they grow up?
I am a stay at home mom of 3 kids under 6 and a blogger. In plain terms, that means that I use technology a LOT. I edit photos, write posts, schedule social media, pitch brands, take online courses, and ya…mindlessly scroll on Instagram just like you. And I do my clothes shopping online! It’s a lot. Plus, what my kids see me model for them teaches them what’s “normal”.
The other day I asked myself if I’d want my kids to grow up and be on their phones or computer as much as I am. Nope. That answer has convicted me to reconsider how much time is really necessary to be online.
OK, yes I’d love to teach them to be online entrepreneurs someday which means more screen time than those who don’t make money online. But no, I don’t want them miss out on conversation, adventure, and deep relationships by resorting to entertainment on their devices.
Q2: Are you in control of your technology or does it tend to control you?
I’m going to guess that technology controls you a little more than you’d like to admit. No one is going to hide your phone for you, and I’m sure you don’t want them to! Sure, you can set time limits on your phone, but you can just as easily go and increase those limits if you want. It comes back to setting your own boundaries, and digging deeper about your tech use.
Ask yourself, “What is this keeping me from?” (Maybe nothing…and you’re in the clear!) But for me, sometimes being on my phone when it’s not necessary keeps me from making dinner on time or cleaning my house. It’s like the ultimate way to procrastinate.
Another fair question is, “Is there a better time for this?” I feel guilty being on my phone during the morning, but I have no qualms about being on my phone or computer once the kids are resting. I even make them go into another room during rest time because I’d rather them not see me looking at the computer. I think at a young age they don’t quite get the difference between being online for work or entertainment…it all just kind of looks like “mom’s on her phone”.
Q3: What would happen if you didn’t check it?
Whatever app, game, email account, or digital space you check 20 times a day, ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t check it? Also, what would happen if you checked on it ONLY once or twice…instead of 20?
A tool for decreasing email notifications
As a blogger, I check my email an embarrassing amount of times from my phone. It’s a habit. It’s also weirdly nice to get rid of that red notification box that’s on my inbox app because I feel “caught up”. Thankfully, there’s a great tool for this! I went in and changed my settings so there will be fewer notifications from my home screen. See below.
A tool for automating an email response on vacation
Also, if you are tempted to constantly check your email on a family trip, your whole family will thank you for using this tool below to automate an email response till you get home. No need to feel unprofessional for not responding, because you will being on your phone.
Family Guide tool for digital wellbeing
This Digital Wellbeing Family Guide is a great tool if you have older kids that are starting to have their own devices or that have a more freedom with time spent on screens. It will get the conversation going about what your kids see technology useful for and ways to make some tech boundaries. It would also be great to use with a spouse!
How to be on your phone less around the kids
After realizing I’m on my phone WAY TOO MUCH around my kids, it hit me that they don’t know if I’m working, on Facebook, writing my grocery list in the notes app, or texting my husband at work. What they see is I’m staring at my phone.
Silence text threads: I recommend silencing all text threads that come in on a daily basis. That way, you will be notified when you look at your phone but won’t hear a ding or feel a buzz that makes you want to check your phone.
Simplify your home screen: Simply move most apps to the second page, or apps you tend to open out of habit when you see them. I did this for a month with Instagram and couldn’t believe how much less time I spent on the app when it was hidden but available.
Put phone in another room: Out of sight, out of mind. A friend of mine who is homeschooling puts her phone away all morning till they are done. I admire that so much! That would be hard for me, but wow she must be so present during that time!
Screen time can be family time too
While this isn’t using tech less, watching videos together or doing games together can be a really fun experience and bring you together. Some of our favorites to watch with the kids on YouTube are:
- Dude Perfect
- The Backyard Scientist
- King of Random
Technology use will look different for every family
Your technology threshold is going to look different than anyone else. Some families may prefer daily time limits, while others may prefer more of a free for all style except certain times such as dinner or when guests come over. It’s up to each family to decide what is appropriate!
I’m a fan of trying to increase technology that is helpful to our family and decrease tech use that isn’t. You can see what we did to reduce screen time at home and get our kids playing again!
To discover more tips and tools, visit wellbeing.google to find a balance with technology that feels right for the whole family!
Tuesday 8th of October 2019
Love this post! I try to stay off of my phone and computer when my kids are awake. I'm not perfect at it, but I do my best and I'm always working on it!
I recently discovered the Digital Well-being app on my phone and I think it's so great. There are days when I check it and had no idea how much time I had spent watching Instagram stories...it's a great reminder to be mindful when using screens. I also used the app to set my phone to switch to gray scale at 9 PM to discourage mindless scrolling late at night. Somehow it's just not as satisfying to scroll when there's no color!
Thursday 10th of October 2019
Yes Instagram stories can really eat up time. I haven't tried the gray scale, that's a great idea! Thanks.