We cannot escape technology and the impact it has on our lives. Technology has led to many advancements in health, business, and our overall sense of enjoyment in life. Kicking back with some popcorn and a movie on Netflix is a common pastime in many households. But what happens when you are finding yourself absorbed into too much tech time? Between work Zoom calls, the kids scrolling TikTok videos, and Facetiming with family, it can require a conscious effort to create healthy habits with technology.

Our youth have a longer standing relationship with technology. With majority of school assignments being computer based, options for online learning, and growing interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, many students are being inundated with screen time. As a parent it can be challenging to strike that balance while still being open minded about the future of our world.

It really is about flipping the switch of our perception on technology. Instead of fighting it like our elders fought the cordless phone, it is time to bridge the gap and see how both worlds can embrace each other.  Helping your family find balance with technology means having open conversations and clear expectations about what using technology looks like.

Here are some suggestions to support a balanced tech-family lifestyle:

  1. Be ergonomically safe – using technology means ensuring we are doing it in a way that honors our bodies. It is easy to forget how our bodies are adjusting while we look down at our phones or sit at the computer. There is a whole movement behind ergonomics, which is the applied science focused on how humans and objects (in this case technology) interact safely with each other. If you or your youth are experiencing headaches, back and neck pain, carpal tunnel, or other issues, perhaps there it is worth checking in with how the technology is being used.

The blue light from a phone screen can create a sense of alertness so using different tools like special glasses to block out light or limiting the use an hour before bed can help reduce issues like difficulty sleeping or anxiety.  Another important note here is the concern around tiredness many people feel. The eyes get strained looking at a small screen up close, so holding the phone at a distance or not sitting too close to a TV may help. Taking a short break every 20 minutes when staring at a screen may be of benefit as well. Apps that use a pomodoro timer are a great tool to help set a healthy balance of screen time.

  1. Be socially conscious – Next time you are in a restaurant, look around and see how many folks are on their phones. It seems that the ability to connect with other humans has been put on the back burner and there are theories if this is what is leading to an increase in rates of depression and anxiety among youth and adults. The irony here is that though we may think we are more connected to others through social media, we are just operating from behind a wall.

A great experiment is to go out with friends or as a family and see if you can all keep your phones off. Give yourselves a reward (not tech related) that you will do together if you reach your goal. This can have many benefits while leading to new social experiences.

  1. Tech detox – This one may not be for everyone, but there are many families who are introducing the concept of a tech detox into their week. The idea here is to become aware of tech use by reducing or eliminating the amount of time on your device. You could go all out and agree as a family that for one full day you will not use any technology. Or you can access detox apps for free that let you set specific rules to reduce your use. Breaking the habit of checking phone notifications can really help improve mental health if done in a way that is supportive.

Finally, parents, if you are considering these options for your youth, make sure that you check on your personal reliance on tech before putting expectations on others. Together we can have a healthy relationship with technology, and we all have a role to play.