Setting Healthy Boundaries Around Technology and Relationships

By Relationships Australia

Few of us could imagine being without our smartphones, laptops and tablets. While we can appreciate the convenience it brings, it’s important to take steps to set up healthier boundaries around our technology and relationships.

It’s estimated that the average Aussie spends about 5.5 hours per day on their phone. Yet too few of us explore how technology and devices can impact on our most important relationships.

Technology can really enhance our lives, helping us stay in regular touch with family, workmates and friends — especially those who live overseas or in different cities. But it’s become common to pick up our phones without even thinking as we sit with our loved ones, missing the opportunity to connect and spend quality time with each other in person.

There are some positive steps you can take to improve your habits around technology, so that your devices can keep you engaged rather than disconnected.

Set up healthy digital habits with your family

As your children begin to explore social media and online games, you can start to have regular conversations with them about what their online experiences have been. If they don’t share or say much about it, try to set aside some time to explore their social media platforms. Talk to them about what they look at, what they post online, and discuss the best ways to ensure they’re using social media and online games wisely.

Discuss introducing healthy technology habits for the whole family such as having one digital-free day a week where everyone locks their devices in a drawer before sitting down to a family meal or going out. If you feel that once a week is not enough, discuss putting all devices away every night at 8pm and make sure the whole family agrees. You can also suggest different guidelines (and maybe even curfews) for each child depending on their age.

Finally, introduce family-friendly activities that don’t involve screen time, such as cooking, bushwalking, gardening and playing board or card games. You could also invite some of your children’s friends over and encourage them to spend some phone-free quality time together.

Improve your relationship with tech around your partner

You may have noticed that you’ve fallen into the bad habit of paying more attention to your phone than your partner. Discuss whether either of you feel that technology gets in the way of having a more meaningful, intimate relationship and what you would both like to do to change things. Talk to your partner about setting aside 30 minutes to an hour every night to have a proper chat, without any technology around.
If you’d like to arrange something on a regular basis for just for the two of you, think about organising a regular date night where you leave your phones off the table and put your devices on aeroplane mode for an agreed period. Other phone-free dates could include going for a walk, a swim, a coffee or picnic.

Set a good example with other loved ones

There’s nothing more frustrating than catching up with a friend or family member who spends the whole time on their phone. You could set an example by making a habit of putting your phone in your bag for the majority of the catch up, and only taking it out occasionally if you have to check for urgent calls or messages.

Practise being a good listener and asking follow up questions to keep the conversation interesting.

Remember that technology and devices don’t need to get in the way of good communication, connecting and bonding. Ensure you keep tabs on it so that habits like checking your phone don’t take priority over checking in on your loved ones.

If you feel that you need help as a family or couple to better communicate, Relationships Australia NSW offers a range of counselling services.

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