Do you remember what life was like before we had smartphones? How about life before cell phones? I do. And while I love my iPhone today, sometimes I miss the days when we weren’t tethered to our portable devices.
The New York Times recently ran an article that caught my eye: “Now Some Families Are Hiring Coaches to Help Them Raise Phone Free Children.”
The first paragraph reads this way: “Parents around the country, alarmed by the steady patter of studies around screen time, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.”
Truth be told, moms and dads across the country are contracting with parent counselors, consultants and coaches to enable their families to experience life together without being tied to a screen of some kind. Sometimes, the kids want it too. The article continues, “A new screen-free parenting coach economy has sprung up to serve the demand. Screen consultants come into homes, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.”
This service is actually catching on.
The Worst Culprits
Parents are scared of what smartphones are doing to their children. Many teens in our focus groups admit to being “addicted” to their device. Parents find it almost impossible to pry kids away from popular sites and that’s what is upsetting so many. Some of the worst culprits are platforms millions of teens love:
The fact of the matter is—when our phones had leashes, we were free. Now our phones are free, and we have leashes. Our phones bring us closer to people who are far away, but distance us from those who sitting right next to us.
Some Ideas to Start Breaking Free
If you don’t have the time or money for a “screen consultant” let me offer some of the most basic ideas many of them suggest when they counsel a family:
1. A Phone Free Contract
Ultimately, parents need buy-in from each family member. A doable printed agreement helps each member to be held accountable for the new lifestyle.
2. Shared Responsibility for a Pet
When phones are put away, something needs to take their place. How about a dog or a cat to occupy the time? Everyone should share the tasks to care for it.
3. Play with Outside Gadgets and Toys
Do you still have any balls around? Outside play is incredibly helpful once phones are on hold. Pick up some outside toys and plan time to use them.
4. Activities for the Entire Family
The best replacement for the solo time parents and kids once used is an activity for everyone to be involved in. Find something you all love and do it.
5. A Challenge for the Family to Embrace
Once you’re comfortable outside, why not choose or create a benevolent project all family members could participate in that has a goal to work toward?
6. Set the Example
One essential ingredient for a phone-free family is adults must set the example. Kids often see us acting as addicted as they are with our phones.
Whether or not you need a consultant for your family, I encourage you to be intentional about leading well. Albert Einstein said it best: “I fear the day when technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
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