Four Steps to Building Better Family Media Boundaries

Four Steps to Building Better Family Media Boundaries

Alison Gerber
Jan 21, 2014
(Image credit: Marcia Prentice)

A good friend of mine relayed to me recently that "I wish we hadn't been so lax on our technology boundaries with the kids." Their kids all use cell phones, all spend time in their room on laptops or iPads, spend some hours each day either playing video games or watching TV. Believe it or not, it wasn't always this way, but it just…grew, piece by piece. Now, is it possible to turn the clock back? Really?

This friend of mine is not the only one. I know there are many parents who feel as though technology use in their home is out of control, (regardless of how much it is being used), and they simply don't know what they can do about it.

As part of the January Cure, we recently engaged in an overnight "media fast". Fasting is an incredible tool for us to understand what controls us and what effect it has on us. It also gives us a chance to break free from that very thing exerting control over us. What better way to bring healthy habits into a family home than to have a clean, fresh start through something like a media fast.

How do we do this? The first step is to get the whole family on board. It can't just be the kids, it also has to involve Mom and Dad. Remember as parents, you set the tone of your home. It's no good if Mom is caught playing a video game, and Dad Facebooking. Everybody sits down together to talk about it, and sets a particular time limit and together puts away technology for that time.

The second step is to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones. Make the "fast" fun! Bake cookies together, go hiking, make music together. Think about what your family would love to do, what would energize you as a group and do it. Do something truly special in that time.

The third is to review your experience of fasting from technology. What was hard? What went well? What might you change as a result. Talking together is key.

Last of all, then, is to propose to the family a new plan for technology use, considering the different needs of family members, which includes the need for boundaries. An old monk once said the most effective fasting is "eating a little less than one would like, every day." This is the same with techology. The best way to control it, is to use it just a little less than you would like. It will feel uncomfortable. There will probably be tantrums. But in the end, I'd be surprised if they weren't more active, more engaged, more creative people as a result.

Has your family ever taken a break from technology? How did you go about it? What were the results? Share your story below!

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