Life Beyond a Screen: Striking a Tech-Life Balance

I’d like to know what Apple did to make it so difficult for me to put my iPhone down. You might feel the same way about your smartphone, tablet or laptop as well. Whether it’s you, your spouse, or your children that seem constantly connected to a device, it’s essential to strike a tech-life balance for not only our own personal wellness but the relationships that matter to us most. Though it sounds nice, finding a balance is easier said than done. Trust me! However, there are specific ways to get our lives back without getting rid of our devices. The following four habits will show you how.

1. Set a Personal/Family Use Policy – Just as in the classroom, expectations are a must for each of us to cooperate and succeed together. Discussing such expectations and rules doesn’t have to be a one person job either. In fact, including our spouse and children in on the process of setting a family use policy will not only result in a more sensible and practical agreement, it will also give every family member a sense of ownership which strengthens accountability to the policy. Ideas to consider for your family’s use policy might include powering off all devices at meal times; ignoring cell-phone alerts in the car; or creating a secure file with all passwords for each family members’ devices and online accounts so that mom and dad can ensure their children’s’ safety.

2. Unplug at a Specific Time Each Day – As educators, we have all experienced the guilt of letting our work invade our family time. The same can happen with technology. Nothing hurts as much as realizing that you weren’t actually present in a meaningful conversation with family or friends because you were reading your Twitter feed or surfing Instagram instead. The same goes for family time or community events that you participate in. Work productivity professionals recommend leaving work at work. Dieticians suggest we stop eating at a certain hour in the evening. Likewise, there comes a point in the day where hashtags should take backseat to hanging out with those closest to us. Turning off our devices together allows us some time to connect with each other on a daily basis.

3. Charge Devices in a Communal Space – One of my biggest pet peeves is being woken up by the glow of my wife’s iPhone screen as she tries to covertly respond to emails in bed. Aside from being a nuisance, keeping our devices at our bedsides serves as a distraction to doing other things in the bedroom, like . . . praying. As for our kids, discouraging devices from charging in their bedrooms will promote healthy sleep habits in addition to being able to appropriately manage their digital lives.

4. Host Your Own Technology Sabbath – In Christianity, the Sabbath is seen as a day of rest where work is left for tomorrow. Perhaps instituting a Technology Sabbath where we disconnect for 24 hours isn’t such a bad idea either. There are certainly jobs and lifestyles that don’t allow us to be away from our phones or email for that long, but for many of us, when we honestly evaluate our technology needs, we can go without for one day. We might have a heck of a time figuring out what to do when we’re offline, but memories aren’t created on an app. They’re created when we spend time with people. Quite possibly, reserving one day each week to be protected from our online social lives might put our technology use in perspective for the rest of the week too.

No relationships will ever be more important than the ones that we forge in our homes, regardless of the opportunities to network that so many of us seek. We live in a connected world where we can text, Tweet, take pictures, and read blog posts whenever we feel like it. But occasionally, it’s more important for us to view the world around us in real life instead of through a 4-inch screen. Trust me, there’s a lot more to see.

Dave Guymon

Dave Guymon is a public online middle school teacher, edtech blogger, and the author of If You Can’t Fail, It Doesn’t Count.

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Mona Gloff

Great ideas for a whole society problem! I really like the communal charge area. Thanks for some great ideas.
I have been to Idaho Falls. It's beautiful up there. I'll be looking for Take 5. Thanks

Christopher Smith

Great ideas Dave!
In my household, we discussed and signed contracts regarding acceptable use. Let me simply say...the conversations before and after have been enlightening! More than once I've been told by my children that I'm in violation of the contract.
Common Sense Media is a great place to find sample "Family Media Agreements". I also encourage use by families in our district.

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