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My favorite group to speak to about reducing screen time and living a more present and joy-filled life is school-age children. When I tell my eager listeners that the purpose of my book, Hands Free Life, is to show people how to turn away from the daily distractions of screen time and turn toward our loved ones, something happens. Small hands shoot straight up in the air and earnest voices beg to share their stories.
“My mom’s phone is the most important thing.”
“My dad never stops working.”
“My mom texts and drives.”
“My dad forgets to say ‘goodbye’ when I get out of the car because of his calls.”
“My parents are so busy. They forget about me.”
It is no secret that parents’ own screen time is being noticed, and in some cases, causing feelings of rejection, anger, and loneliness within the hearts of loved ones. I know first-hand how painful it is to realize how devices, to-do lists, and increased screen time have taken precedence over meaningful conversation and memorable experiences. Yet in my efforts to transform my distracted life, I realized something equally important to what I was missing. I realized that my children’s chance at living a present, joy-filled life in a distracted world begins with me and my own ability to manage screen time.
Through our modeling of healthy technology use, children can learn there is a time and place for our devices. On the flip side, if we constantly have a device in our hand or our face in a screen, children will learn that the device takes priority over humans and real life experiences. Our children’s tech use and screen time is likely to resemble our own—what we do with our device at the dinner table, while driving, or while waiting at a restaurant is likely what they will do.
One of my most effective strategies for reducing screen time and maintaining healthy boundaries between real life and technology is to envision what will make my children feel fulfilled in the future. And it comes down to this:
If I want my children to be awed by sunsets in the future, I must take time to be awed by sights in nature now.
If I want my children to relish in the joys of a screen-free Saturday, I must express joy in going off the grid.
If I want my children to experience the freedom that comes from open blue skies and crunchy leaves underfoot, I must partake in such freedoms myself.
If I want my children to look straight into the eyes of those who speak to them, I must look into their eyes and listen to their words.
It is my ultimate hope that my children yearn to experience all life has to offer with open hands, an open heart, and attentive eyes. This means doing what I can to be a positive example as they grow. It means modeling healthy screen time usage.
Living Hands Free does not mean giving up technology altogether, and it does not mean ignoring your job responsibilities, volunteer obligations, or home duties. Living Hands Free means making a conscious decision to temporarily push aside the daily distractions of screen time and give your undivided attention to someone or something meaningful in your life. Here are six small changes you can make as individuals or as a family that will make a big impact on you and your family’s well-being, now and in the future:
As you take small steps in your life to limit screen time and create space for meaningful living and loving, notice the positive results. What emotions do you experience when you step away from your devices to spend time with a loved one? Do you notice anything special about your loved one that you failed to notice before? Does the importance of your online activities decrease when you are engaged in a moment of loving human connection? Are you beginning to notice more opportunities to connect to what matters to you?
I hope you find, as I have, that the benefits of a Hands Free Life are extensive. With each small step to be more present in your life, you are able to protect your time, strengthen your relationships, and nurture your own health and well-being. You are also able to model healthy lifestyle and screen time boundaries for your children that enrich their lives indefinitely.
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