Your kid barely looks up from his tablet screen when you call his name, Hubby can’t resist checking his e-mails during dinner, and you’re hooked on social media sites. Sound familiar?
“Our gadgets are taking away the time that we would otherwise spend with our families,” says Alex Linh, an associate certified coach at Executive Coach International. “Parents and children aren’t communicating with one another as much as they should, and as a result, their bond isn’t as strong as it could be.
“For instance, parents are not taking the time to talk or express affection to their kids, and couples aren’t communicating about issues within their relationship.”
The overwhelming use of devices is also not good for kids, says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness.
“Social skills need to be learnt through real-life interactions. By not taking a break from their gadgets, kids are missing out on the opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively, and this can erode their relationship with their siblings and parents.”
Learn about managing your kid’s digital habits better by signing up for the British Council’s seminar on March 23, 2019. Titled Raising the Future: The Tech Generation, it brings together experts in the field of early childhood and technology to discuss topics such as screen time, digital skills kids need for future careers and more. Sign up now here.
Related: My kids have no iPhone or iPad
One of the best things you can do to improve your family relationships is to have a “tech-free day” every now and again. How often you decide to implement this is up to you and your spouse. Dr Lim says that if a tech-free day is too hard, then you may want to designate certain areas of the house as tech-free zones, or schedule tech-free times.
Tech-free zones can be the bedroom or dining table, while tech-free times can be mealtimes and just before bedtime. Once everyone at home gets used to these rules, you can slowly work towards having a tech-free day.
“Having time away from technology allows the family to enjoy more face-to-face conversations and physical interactions,” adds Dr Lim. “Children need this warmth and closeness in order to grow up stable and secure. These interactions are imperative for your kids to develop well.”
Talk and play
So ask your kids how their day is going, talk to them about something interesting that happened at school, or find out their opinion about an issue. And spend more time with your spouse. Discuss anything other than work and the kids, and really make the effort to connect intimately.
On tech-free days, focus on activities that will help your family bond. But don’t go to the movies, says Alex, because that’s just spending time in front of another (and larger) screen.
Instead, get outdoors. Go cycling, swimming or roller-blading. Try a new restaurant and have a family discussion about the food afterwards. If you decide to stay in, Dr Lim suggests traditional board games and fun activities like craftwork or painting.