Just as television did after its arrival in the late 1950s, technological devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets have become integral to our lives and few of us could imagine being without them.
While many of us look at our smartphone apps regularly – figures show the average user checks their phone 85 times a day – perhaps too few of us explore how technology and devices can impact on our most important relationships.
It can be hard to detect that we pick up our smartphones almost without thinking as we sit together as a family or as a couple and we miss the opportunity to connect with each other rather than a screen. Here are some positive steps you can take to improve your relationships with both your children and your partner so that the benefits of technology continue to keep you engaged rather than disconnected.
- As your children begin to explore social media and popular online games, for example, start to have regular conversations with them about what their online experiences have been.
- If they don’t share or say much about it (other than they like it) try to make it an interactive activity tougher by setting aside some time to explore their social media platforms so you know what your children look at, what they post online, and talk to them about what are the best ways to ensure they are using social media and online games wisely.
- Consider developing a social media plan for the whole family so you can suggest different guidelines (and maybe even curfews) for each child depending on their age.
- Discuss introducing a system where phones, laptops and tablets are used in common living spaces for a certain number of hours every night after homework or study is done so that your children don’t develop the habit of using these devices in their bedrooms.
- Instead of everyone using their devices all the time, suggest doing something together as a family on a regular basis such as playing an online game or watching a popular streamed series or film or going to kick a ball in a nearby park or go for a bike ride. If you decide to watch a TV or streamed show together, talk about the program’s themes, characters, plotlines and dialogue.
- 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 this to.
- Introduce family-friendly activities such as baking or cooking, planting herbs or vegetable seedlings, playing board or card games, exploring some crafts like knitting, woodwork, painting, mosaics and drawing or buying some colouring in books.
You could also be aware that in your relationship with your husband or partner, you have developed a few bad habits of your own as you spend less time talking to each other and more hours on your devices.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 that. Talk to your partner, as part of your social media plan as a couple, about setting aside half an hour to an hour every night to have a proper chat without any technology around.
If you feel that you would like to arrange something on a regular basis just for the two of you, think about arranging a regular date night where you leave your phones face down on the table and put your devices on silent for an acceptable period of time. You may prefer suggesting something less time consuming and expensive like going for a walk, a swim, a coffee or a picnic.
It may be that you love technology and feel it really enhances your life including helping you stay in regular touch with family, workmates and friends. So you may want to explore more positive ways of using technology as a couple.
It could be that your partner loves watching comedy, variety shows or music clips on YouTube, so suggest that you watch ones you both like together or choose a Netflix or Stan series to binge-watch.
If your partner is a huge fan of popular online games like Fortnite, Rules of Survival or Maelstrom, express an interest in finding a game you both like and learn to play it together.
Remember that whether it is as a family or a couple, technology and devices do not need to get in the way of good communication, connecting and bonding, but it can be beneficial to keep tabs on it at regular intervals so that habits like checking in on your phone apps 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 various counselling services, including face-to-face and online. To speak to a counsellor today follow this link: http//www.relationshipsnsw.org.au/support-services/face-to-face counselling/ or if you would like to know more about our courses, go to www.relationshipsnsw.org.au/support-services-category/family-relationships/