Everywhere you look, it seems if everyone is looking down. In what seems like a blip of time, people of all ages are tuned in and the world –and the people in it– are tuned out. Today, more parents are recognizing the importance of becoming a screen-free family.

Screen time and device use has increased, as no surprise, In its 2013 policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” the American Academy of Pediatrics cited these shocking statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: “The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.”

But, what about our own screen time? In an article in the Washington Post, “Think your kids don’t notice that you’re compulsively checking your e-mail or social media? Think again, says Catherine Steiner-Adair. The psychologist and the author of “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age” cites research in her book that shows that kids absolutely notice, and that’s not a good thing.”

Steiner-Adair says children she works with feel disconnected from their distracted parents, and talk about being mad and sad, or feeling like they are less important or fun than the device that is stealing mom’s attention. Preteens and teens have told her their parents are “hypocrites” for spending so much time in front of a screen while strictly limiting their kids’ access.

“Children feel weary from trying to get our attention,” Steiner-Adair said.

Related read: Power Play: Children and Electronic Devices

According to Victoria Dunckley, MD, family dynamics shift profoundly when going screen free. Some of the more apparent changes:

  • The children are less likely to report feeling as though the parents have “no idea what I do” or “no control over me.”
  • The parents are less likely to undermine each others authority and are better at communicating with each other when parenting styles differ.
  • The children are less likely to complain that parents don’t spend time with them, that a parent is “on the computer all the time” or “always on their phone.”
  • Families spend more quality time together, both one-on-one and a s a unit, and tend to talk more.
  • Siblings become more in tune with each other through face-to-face conversation and talking through issues.
  • Uninterrupted parent-child interaction is beneficial for a child’s growth.

Knowing there are countless and proven benefits of going screen-free, what steps can families implement to begin? Here are a few easy ways to put a scree-free plan in motion today:

  • Have a “no device day” once per week. To make this feel less like a cabbage-soup diet, be sure to plan an activity that is family based, interactive with others or participatory. This can be as simple as crafts, games or puzzles with younger children, a mid-week event with older kids (museum, junior high sporting activity, community concert) or if the temptation is too great for teens, leave the device at home and plan a beauty night, man-night or movie theater night. By having an experience together, families have the opportunity to have real conversations based on shared experiences.
  • Set limits on device usage time. Just as our parents had to monitor our TV time, the same holds true with devices. We adopted a policy in our home that devices go dark at 8pm. It was a struggle, especially with our district-issued iPads in place of textbooks and homework organizers. So, the kids now need to have all device-related school work complete, no exception.
  • Set limits on device location. Just as there is a “no texting at the table” policy, devices need to be out of the bedroom each night. This also is a trust-building exercise not only for parent-child relationships, but also with your spouse.

Communicate real life experiences from and to your family. Being in the moment with your child or spouse is a far greater investment than being in the moment of the latest ducky face, travel photos or “shenanigans-show-off.” Think of the payoff of a personal investment to your partner with your time and attention.

Does your family need to go screen-free? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you and possibly share your story in an upcoming blog.  Visit PersonalBabyProducts.com and PersonalizedKidsPlates.com to stay up-to-date on topics, tips and articles written especially for parents. We welcome you to share, repost and re-tweet our news, ideas and stories with your social media network. Or, simply subscribe to our RSS feed or newsletter below