Tips for Better Balance with your Family’s Cell Phone Use

In my first post of this two part series, I shared some of my observations on how cell phones are stirring up trouble in our family and personal lives. It’s pretty clear that we now have to make an effort to not check our phones and to carve out time without technology. We have to make an effort to minimize distraction and to set aside time to be present with loved ones. In this post, I’ll share my favorite tips that have personally helped me create a better balance with cell phone use (and technology in general) in my family life.

Tips on How to Put your Cell Phone Down

So, let’s get to it. How do we create a better balance? I’ve found that it’s about creating boundaries and expectations regarding our use of cell phones. I share some tips below from my own experiences in finding a balance and I challenge you to pick one suggestion you’d like to try this week and let me know how it goes.

Set "No Phone" Times and Clear Expectations

As a family, you can discuss and set times when phones are turned off and put away in the evenings. You may decide that by dinnertime, cell phones are powered down for the night or maybe it’s by bedtime or perhaps an hour after returning home for the day. You’ll also want to set times when phones are absolutely not allowed (create those expectations together). There are certain times when there is no wiggle room on cell phone use. For example, you may decide as a family that phones are not allowed during mealtimes and every person knows that phones should never be brought to the dining room table. Once you set clear expectations together, it’s makes it easier to be on the same page.

Get a House Line

A house line that is unlisted allows you to turn off your cell phone in the evenings and still be contacted in the event of an emergency. It’s a great way to still be connected in the event a family member needs to reach you and can lessen any anxiety you may have when turning off your phone.

Take 1 Phone on Outings or No Phone

Cell phones can stay at home during an outing. There’s no need for everyone to have his/her cell phone if you are going out to share a meal or do an activity together. You can take 1 phone for those “just in case” moments or leave them all at home. By not bringing it for that hour or two outing, you are allowing yourself to disconnect and truly to be present in the moment with your people. This is my favorite tip that we have embraced in our home and makes date nights and outings so much more enjoyable and fun.

Kindly Compel your Phone Standards with Guests

Ask friends and family to leave their phones in jackets, purses, or in a basket when they come over to hang out. Explain that you want to spend time with them and not with them while they’re on their phones. Be sure to follow the expectation you’ve set and keep your phone away. It takes one person to take his/her phone out and cue everyone to do the same starting a chain reaction. It may seem strange at first (and borderline rude) but they’ll come to expect and hopefully even enjoy the time with you and away from their phones. Anyway, what’s ruder, a guest that’s always on their phone or your preemptive strike? Clearly, I feel it’s the former, not the latter.

Set a Plan for Children’s Phone Use

Think about why your children need a phone before you give them one. Are there specific times of day or circumstances when you would like your children to have a phone? What are the reasons behind giving your children a phone? What are the limits of what they can and can’t do on their phones? Really talk about it with your partner and make a game plan for your children’s phone use.

Question How Connected You Are

What are the settings on your phone for emails, news, social media, etc.? Does your email need to be set to “push”? Do your apps need to send you notifications of this and that every 15 minutes? Assess how connected you are and if it’s necessary or just habit. Limit notifications, set emails to retrieve and be conscious of how often you click into an app and use your phone.

Allow for Flexibility

Know that exceptions are allowed and that your guidelines can change with time. Speak about your expectations with your partner, family or friends and ask them their thoughts. It’s important to find a balance together being fair and kind.

These tips are just a start. What works in your home or with friends to minimize the role that cell phones play during outings and special moments? I look forward to hearing from you!

Keep well, S