Category: Technology

Screen Free for a Month! WHAT?

What if you went Screen-Free, as a family, for a WHOLE MONTH!! Do you think you could do it? Would your family go nuts? Would everyone crack up? Would the fighting increase? Yikes!! A whole month!!

One of the main tips I give to help families connect better and more often, is to manage technology better. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology free moments every day. For example, you could have a TV, computer and no phone hour just before bed. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time you will be surprised at how much time you can open up for your family. Finding a few moments each day to turn technology off is a good idea.

A few years ago, I met a family that goes screen-free for a whole month, once a year. I got all the details from the mom, Courtney, and I want to share them with you because I think you will be so impressed that you might consider making this a tradition in your home.

So, what is screen-free you ask? No TV, no movies on TV, no computer time, no games on the phone or TV, no screens!

HOW TO MAKE GOING SCREEN-FREE WORK

Here is how the Smith family makes it work:
1. Prepare your kids ahead of time. This family goes screen free in June, every year. However, one year they didn’t begin talking about it early enough. They usually begin talking about it and making plans about a month in advance. So, for the sake of having a successful Screen-Free Month, they moved it to July that year.

2. Presentation is everything. That’s my phrase and you’ve probably heard me say it before, but it is what they do. They talk it up. They talk about all the great things they’re going to be able to do as a family, how much fun they’re going to have together, and the family reward at the end of the month.

3. Get everyone to buy in. As Courtney was telling me how they get their kids to cooperate I said, “Oh you get them to buy in.” She smiled and said, “Well I didn’t have a term for it but yup, that’s what we do.” They get their kids to buy in by allowing them to pick a reward they would like to have at the end of the month. It could be swimming, camping, eating out, going to the movie theater, visiting grandparents, a road trip, whatever the parents want to throw out there. When the kids pick it, plan it and talk about it – they are IN.

Here is their families one caveat concerning rewards – They don’t use screen time as the reward. They don’t want to reward ‘no screen’ time with ‘screen’ time. : )

4. Parent’s have to be honest! It isn’t the kids who struggle the most, it’s the parents. They really do have to commit. Courtney told me that the hard part for her is at lunch. She usually has lunch when the big kids are at school and her little one is taking a nap. She likes to read Facebook, watch a show, catch up on the news, whatever, as she eats lunch. It’s a challenge to read instead or call a friend.

It is also challenging for her and her husband in the evening when everyone is in bed. They usually veg out a bit in front of the TV, just the two of them but – YIKES – it’s their screen-free month. She told me that they have learned to play games together or read to each other. It’s become really fun.

The one adult caveat – They do occasionally check email, pay bills online or prepare church lessons. Just no screens for entertainment purposes.

5. Plan ahead. Get the games out. Check some great books out of the library. Stock up on popcorn. Know in your mind what you’re going to say to your kids, how are you going to direct them when they come and ask to watch a movie or use technology. Get mentally and physically prepared.

This family goes screen free in the summer months because they feel that in the winter you’re shut in and it’s more difficult to disengage from TV, videos, games, etc. In the summer you can get out, walk, go swimming, go to the mountains, etc.

THE RESULTS

Courtney said that it’s challenging the first few days because it’s a serious transition, but then they settle right in. They have a lot of fun. They play together, they talk, and they laugh. She said that it’s something they all really look forward to each year.

They feel more connected at the end of their Screen-Free Month. It takes a while for screen time to become important to them again. The break feels good – after the first few days. : )

In fact, Courtney shared this with me, “Last time we did it our kids wanted to continue for more than a month! And they hardly ever asked when it would be over.”

So why not consider it and give it a try. You just might find out how much your family likes to read, play games, hike or swim.

Who else out there goes screen free for a day, a week, a month? What is your experience?

Your shares are the best compliment!

The Big Epidemic

The idea that we should be careful to keep our priorities right in terms of not letting lesser concerns get in the way of greater ones so that we find ourselves “in the thick of thin things,” is good advice.

The Big Epidemic

However, getting stuck in the thick of thin things seems to be epidemic in today’s world. It can be a challenge to discern what the thin things are and sidestep them. This is a problem for every parent. There are so many things we need to do to manage our home, make a living, and frankly, get some time to ourselves. And then there are the expectations of the world; what parents are supposed to do to really give their kids a good life, to be great parents.

Let me give you two very different examples of the difficulty of staying out of thin things from two very different moms. One is middle aged and is schooling her children at home and one is older with five grown children. And just for fun, I’ll share how the issue was solved.

Phones, Screens, Frustration!

I was working with a mom who happened to be homeschooling. She really wanted to be Present with her kids during the time they were learning together but she kept getting sucked into thin things.

If the phone rang it had to be answered – it might be important. The computer and other screens were also a siren’s song. Just glancing at the screen for a few minutes couldn’t be harmful, right!

As this mom put it to me, “during our learning time are a tool of Satan!” Pretty strong words! That tells you the level of frustration this mom felt at her willingness to let the unimportant intrude on the important.

This mom, like all the parents I work with, really does want her children to know that they come first, that she loves being with them, and values her time with them. But she was struggling to not walk away from being present with her kids to take care of what was coming in from the world. It was making her feel terrible.

Wisely, she pondered the situation, did a bit of knee time and came up with a solution. She decided to turn off the screens when she wanted to be present with her kids during their learning time. She turned the computer off at night, so it wouldn’t be a temptation in the morning and then when she got down to business with her children, she put her phone on silent.

The outcome is that she’s been able to be truer to her family and herself. She can be present for small amounts of time and accomplish her goal of teaching her kids, but more importantly of sending the message that they matter to her and are at the top of her list.

Expectations, Stuff, and Guilt!

I have another friend who has raised five children. In a recent conversation, she mentioned her dismay at all the stuff that she still had from when her kids were living at home. You know the kind of stuff we save – school photos, childhood drawings, old school papers, awards, etc. She felt that somehow, she had let her kids down because they didn’t have all this stuff in beautiful scrapbooks. I mean, all her friends had made beautiful scrapbooks for their kids, she was sure of it. She felt guilty. It weighed on her mind.

This is what she said to me “I guess I was too busy helping kids with lessons, sitting through games, playing, supporting plays,” … her voice trailed off.”

When I called her on this she smiled and said, “Your right. All that stuff I did with my kids was really more important, wasn’t it?”

Seth and his treasures : )

Now there isn’t anything wrong with a beautiful scrapbook or looking at a screen if they don’t take us away from time we should be connecting with our family. I made a few scrapbooks for some of my older kids, but they didn’t have any fancy pages. I just paper punched the sheets and put them in the binders. My son, Seth, who is on the downside of forty, still has his and thinks it’s the best. He never missed beautifully crafted pages. Andrew doesn’t even have a scrapbook, he was farther down the line but he loved the box of his stuff.

And if you feel pressed about all that stuff you seem to be collecting for

Andrew and his box of ‘stuff’.

your kids here is a thought. A couple of Christmases ago I bought some pretty storage boxes. Then I sorted all the stuff, and after seven kids there was a bunch of it! I put each child’s treasures in a separate box and that’s what Don and I gave them for Christmas.

How did that go? They LOVED them. It was so fun to watch them sorting through the contents. You could hear, “Do you remember this.” “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that.” They sat and reminisced for a couple of hours. Since then they have discarded most of what I thought needed to be saved all those years ago.

Funny how we downplay the time we spend with our family, connecting with one another. We rarely give it the kudos it deserves. Funny how we sometimes elevate the value of things that matter far less.

As the world gets busier and noisier and the expectations increase, it becomes critical for us to carve out time for those things that are of greatest importance, our children, our family, our time together.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things?’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Pres. Thomas S Monson, Oct. 2009)

Being present doesn’t require a lot of time. It does require letting go of outside influences and focusing on those who matter most. When we look someone in the eye and listen, we send a very clear message: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

NOT the Greatest Grandmother!

https://pixabay.com/en/blackboard-technology-board-school-573023/

Sometimes I’m the greatest grandma in the world – and sometimes I am NOT. This week, when I was babysitting the grandkids I was a NOT the greatest grandma. You may ask what accounted for my fall from the pedestal. Well, it all had to do with technology. I turned it off for three hours!

In my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less, there is an entire chapter on this one topic – how technology impacts families and how to take control.

Recently my daughter’s family moved – three times. The entire move spanned a few months and involved living in two homes while they were being remodeled, as well as moving into temporary quarters while one home sold and the other was bought. Whew! It was an ordeal. This experience led to a lot of technology time for the kids. However, they are a bit more settled now and my daughter decided that it was time to get back on track. So at breakfast the other morning I heard her having a conversation with the children. She reminded them of  the family rules concerning their technology use.

Rule 1 – No technology in bedrooms, only at your desks
Rule 2 – No technology at the table
Rule 3 – No technology before the families morning routine is done
Rule 4 – No technology before church on Sunday mornings
Rule 5 – No technology after 7pm. That’s family time.

In 1971 C.P. Snow of the New York Times said “Technology . . . is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”

This is true and it is especially true in families. There are positives and negatives to the use of technology in the family setting. Let’s take a brief look at some of the negatives when technology in families isn’t managed well.

  • It makes you grouchy. It’s a fact; too much technology use makes kids and adults grouchy. A study done by the Boston Medical Center revealed that parents who get absorbed by email, games, or other apps have more negative interactions with their children. And I have observed that if there is too much technology time for kids there seems to be more contention among siblings, there is a lower sense of cooperation when someone is asked to do something and there is a tendency to more disobedience.
  • Too much technology use contributes to a loss in the ability to relate to others. I recall watching five teens have a thirty-minute conversation with each other, all on their cell phones. Not a word was actually spoken and they were all right there together. Amazing!
  • It contributes to emotional distance and loneliness. When someone is responding to email or scanning Facebook while you or your kids are trying to get their attention it says loud and clear that you or they are not as important as the device.
  • It contributes to what appears to be naughty children and heightens the feeling of weariness for parents. If parents are on their devices too much, kids will act out to get their parents attention. I have some of my own private research to back this up, as well as wonderful studies done by scientists. And when kids are acting out it can be wearing for parents.

So what can we do to minimize the downside of technology in our families and maximize the positives?

1. Have a set time for technology use for your kids.

2, Manage your own technology use. Have a time limit when you use email and
social media sites at home.

3. Unplug! Have some times during the day when you just don’t use technology, dinner for example.

4. Make the effort to connect on a personal level. Occasionally, instead of texting, make a phone call. Instead of email, write a letter. Have a real face to face conversation with another family member.

I thought you might be interested in how our three hours of tech free time went – you know those three hours when I was the worst grandma on the planet. Well, Mary and Jack both made progress on the books they are currently reading and Ben reconnected with the joy of playing engineer. There are tremendous benefits for families when there are clear boundaries for technology use. Why not make it the topic of your next family meeting. It can change your family!

I’d love to hear how you manage technology in your home. I am also interested in your technology challenges. Visit the blog, leave a comment and let me know.

PS. I invite you to visit becomingapresentparent.com and get a FREE chapter of my new book. It’s called Utilizing Touchpoints and it can be life changing for your family. I promise!

Top 10 Educational Apps for Kids

Summer is almost here and that means lots of kids with lots of time on their hands. For the most part, we want our kids outside playing and having fun but there’s no getting around the fact that they will spend time on their digital devices. Here are some great apps that are safe, fun and can be educational.

Tons of educational apps are now available for download but this doesn’t mean that all of them are good for your kids. Bad educational apps can provide distractions instead of learning, and if you aren’t careful, there are even apps that shouldn’t be on your kid’s phone.

As a parent, you want to ensure your kids are learning from good sources and here are 10 of the best educational apps for your kids:

1. Kids ABC Letters Lite

This app will help your child become familiar with his ABCs. It includes fun games, such as creating letters through colorful puzzle pieces. This version, however, isn’t complete. As it’s a lite version, you may have to pay to get the complete app.

2. Marble Math Junior

Marble Math Junior mixes marble maze games with math problems. It’s best for children who are still learning to read as it includes a voice that reads the problems to your child.

3. Endless Alphabet

This is a monster-themed app that teaches kids how to spell. It doesn’t have a time limit and it doesn’t even keep scores. This helps assure that your child can work on spelling skills without feeling pressured or stressed out.

4. Superhero Comic Book Maker

If you want to enhance your child’s creativity, then this app is a must. It lets children write their own stories, just like a comic book. There are different scenes your child can choose from, and there’s also the option to move the character the way they want.

5. WriteReader Pro

WriterReader Pro is suitable for children age 5 and up. It allows kids to write their own stories while making sure their parents are able to monitor their progress.

6. Read Me Stories

Reading stories to your children is one of the precious moments you share with them. You can download this app which enables you to read a new book to your child every day or let them read a new story by themselves. It’s a good app for practicing, whether at the park or school.

7. Barefoot World Atlas

This app will familiarize your child with animals, people and everything about the world. It has a 3D rendition of the globe and children can zoom in or rotate the viewing angle to get a closer look at the descriptions and photos. It also has BBC presenter Nick Carter to guide your child. What’s great about the app is that it shows your child landmarks and distinct natural features from the comfort of their bedroom.

8. Poptropica

Poptropica is a role-playing app that adds a fun twist to mystery solving. It’s particularly geared towards children ages 6 to 15. In this app, kids create their own avatars which are used to conquer quests. They can change not only the avatars’ facial features but their attributes as well. The game can be saved for future gaming sessions.

9. The Robot Factory

The Robot Factory is created for school age children. It encourages kids to explore, design and create robots. After designing the robot, children can test their creation and then redesign the robot.

10. Duolingo

If you’re looking for a way to help your child learn more than one language, then Duolingo is one of the best educational language apps you can find. It’s great for visual learners and kids can earn badges every time they are successful with a new level.

Author Bio:

Rose Cabrera is the lead content writer for Top Security Review. She’s passionate about sharing security tips and tricks to help keep the whole family safe.