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Unplug from Technology during the Holidays

by Rachel Chaney - December 19, 2016

Watch for people walking with cellphonesThink about your fondest memories from the holidays, what happened? Was technology involved? Technology has enhanced our lives greatly, but it can also keep us from interacting with others. Have you ever been out with someone who was only on the phone? How does it feel? Sadly, we have all been that person at one point or another. Normally, people are more prone to gravitate toward technology if someone else is on theirs. According to CNN, a report from Nielsen shows that the average American spends 10 plus hours per day on tablets, smartphones, and other technology during the first quarter of 2016. In 2015, Washington post reported that teens spend about 9 hours and children ages 8 to 12 spend around 6 hours per day on technology according to Common Sense Media.

Technology has its pros and cons when it comes to relationships. In one way it can enhance our relationships by giving us a chance to communicate with those that we may not see all the time.  In another way it can keep us behind the computer which means fewer face to face conversations. Adults are just as bad as, if not worse than, children at relying on technology. I hear the saying “kids just don’t go outside anymore, all they do is play on their phones.” One reason kids may be using more technology is because we are not offering enough options of things to do with them. Good relationships with family and friends take time and effort. Here are some simple steps to start breaking free from technology:

  1. Add up the time spent on Technology and Keep a Media Diary

    • This is a great way to open your eyes to how much time you truly spend on technology. It is easy to lose track of time when being on social media or playing a game. Various apps are available to monitor your time on your phone.
  2. Have a set time where no technology is allowed.

    • In order to accomplish this try to set a time that works for everyone and make sure to enforce it on everyone. Some people go as far as to put all technology (phones, TV remotes, and tablets) up in a designated box or basket.
  3. Enjoy at least one meal a week together with no technology.

    • According to the Family Dinner Project, research shows that regular family meals together will increase physical, mental, and emotional health in children, teens, and adults. For more information go to the http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/ where they have tips for getting started. Build upon this to where eventually every meal is a time for the family to be technology free.

Christmas break is upon us which means more time with our loved ones. How about this Christmas break, come up with technology free activities that you can do together with your family and friends. Below are ten activities that you can do during this holiday break with your loved ones that do not require technology. These activities should bring you and your loved ones lots of fun, laughter, and you may even learn new things about each other.

  1. Have a family game night which could include cards and board games as well as even creating your own game.
  2. Do a puzzle.
  3. Try a new recipe or teach a family recipe.
  4. Go on a scavenger hunt, play outside, or just go on a walk.
  5. Do a craft or learn a new skill together.
  6. Start a Book Club with your Family. Pick a book and then spend time discussing it.
  7. Organize your pictures with family while sharing stories and memories.
  8. Make homemade Christmas cards/gifts to send to your loved ones and neighbors.
  9. Pick a cause that you and your family could volunteer for.
  10. Engage in random acts of kindness by leaving notes around town, change for treats in stores, or buying coffee for someone.

Holiday time can also mean long drives to see loved ones, and long drives often spell long hours on devices. Below are five activities that you can do in your car that are engaging and fun, but just be sure that any activity you play is safe for the driver.

  1. For younger kids play games like I Spy, License Plate, and 20 Questions.
  2. For older kids, you could play Definition Game, Celebrities Game, and Fun Fact Game.
  3. Some family board and card games are road trip friendly like Mad Gab and Catch Phrase.
  4. Listen to an audiobook.
  5. Make a road trip out of any drive and find interesting places to see along your route.

While taking technology out of the picture is a great way to cultivate lasting relationships. There are still some fun ways to use technology with your family and friends. It is important to know when it is time to disconnect. For instance, have ever watched Netflix so long that it asks you if you are sure you want to watch more? You know it is bad when technology is telling you that you have been for too long.  Here are some activities to do that utilize technology, but also involve the whole family:

  1. Enjoy watching Christmas movies together.
    • During the holiday season, many memories I have are when we spent time watching Christmas movies together. This also means that the phone was been put away and all attention is on enjoying the movie together.
  2. Play an app or video game together
    • There are variety of mobile applications and video games out there that you can use to have fun with your family. Some video games and applications allow participants to utilize movement and even dancing while playing. While waiting in line to see the Star Wars movie, my family played “Heads Up” app and had a blast doing it.
  3. Research your family history together
    • This is a great way to show your children where they are from and for you to know as well.
  4. Keep in touch with other Family members
    • Especially, when living far away from family member’s technology has allowed us ways to keep in touch with one another. During the holidays, family’s relationships are even more important, therefore, try facetime with your loved ones that are cannot come home this year.

Maya Angelou once said “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” During this holiday season and in the New Year, I challenge you to set limits on technology use, make every effort to enjoy time with family and friends, create memories, and take time to smell the roses.  

If you participate in disconnecting from technology and spending more time with loved one please share with us how it went after the holidays. Share it on Facebook with #UAEXfamilytime. From the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Family Life team, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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