3 Places Families Should Make Phone-Free

Take back family time and set an example for your kids by creating tech-free zones in the most important areas of your life. By Caroline Knorr
3 Places Families Should Make Phone-Free

You're sitting down to dinner and -- buzz, buzz! -- your phone starts vibrating. You're driving your kid to practice and -- beep, beep! -- a call comes in. You're tucking your kid into bed and -- squawk, squawk! -- an app begs to be played. It never fails: Technology interrupts our most treasured family moments.

Sure, our devices keep us connected, informed, and engaged. But meals, bedtimes, and even time in the car are the three times when we need to just say no. Kids are beginning to complain about the amount of time parents spend on their phones. And if we don't draw the line on our own phone use, who will? Creating no-phone zones is key to taking back important family time. It also sets an important example for our kids. Here's how to carve out three important tech-free areas -- and why.

The dinner table. Everything from better grades to a healthier lifestyle have been credited to eating together as a family. Phones at the table can block those benefits. Author Sherry Turkle says that even the presence of a phone on the table makes people feel less connected to each other. The solution? Have a Device Free Dinner. Once the food is ready, ask everyone to turn off their phones, silence them, or set them to "do not disturb." Or set out a box and make everyone drop their phones in it. And if you're tired of getting no response when you ask how your kids' day was, start talking about something funny you saw on your phone, and they'll soon chime in with their own stories.

The bedroom. There's scientific proof that the blue light emitted from cell phones disrupts sleep. Poor sleep can affect school performance, weight, and well-being. Also, if kids are texting with friends until the wee hours, they're more likely to say or post something they'll regret in the light of day. While it's useful to take advantage of devices' built-in controls to reduce brightness and make the colors warmer (i.e. less blue), such as in iPhone 's Night Shift setting, using the phone is still a stimulating activity and will eat into important sleep time. Set a specific time before bed for kids to hand over their phones, and charge them in your room overnight.

The car. We're not even talking about texting and driving, because you would never, ever do that, right? Right? Phones in the car also interfere with those conversations you tend to have with your kids when you're driving them around. Maybe it's because you're not face to face, or maybe the open road makes kids open up. So store your phones in the glove compartment until your arrival. Sometimes the car is the place where the deep talks take place. And no one wants to interfere with that.

About Caroline Knorr

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As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more

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Comments (10)

Adult written by Virginia C.

PLEASE START A BOOK READING CAMPAIGN! Everything on this site looks ‘inward’ towards the technology - surely this is not the way to counteract tech addiction? What about creating harmless ‘media habits’ at an early age by using the oldest media of all? THE BOOK. How about positively supporting ‘book reading’ AS WELL AS tablet screening, and help your children build their imagination? Obviously (and sadly) young parents seem only to associate reading with work , ie. school work. Books are not hard work for those who can read well; they’re actually the best window onto the world that there is. Are we bringing up people who are only half-literate? Is that the core problem? Even more reason to promote reading: reading with parents, reading secretly, reading for pleasure, reading aloud, supper-table discussions about books the whole family has read.... all very old-tech. But a great distraction from new tech, bringing balance to their media experience. JOIN THE PAST AND THE PRESENT TO THE FUTURE, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE: READ BOOKS instead of tablets.
Kid, 12 years old

I don't really like banning phones in the car, it makes it very, very tiring. I'm glad i am in the modern age.
Kid, 12 years old

I might have to say something about the phones in the bedrooms, because my alarm clock can't wake me up in the morning, unlike my phone. The same thing goes with listening to music as I fall asleep, because otherwise, I stay up even later. I agree with your other points, though.
Adult written by Moody Lizard

This makes so much sense to me. Just last night I woke up to use the restroom and when I checked on my kids they were both playing their iPods. It was about midnight. I came here for advise and was glad to see that I'm not the only one dealing with this issue. It helps to hear sound advise on this matter.
Kid, 12 years old

I half-agree half-disagree, agree if it is video games but disagree if it is lullabyes, alarm clock apps, night lights or any other sleeping device.
Adult written by isaaclee

well, I'm starting to agree that phones are interfering with our daily lives. You look at then and now and you will notice a huge difference. Back then the only times we seemed to use our phones was when we were at work. If we wanted to use it somewhere else then we had a certain time limit and on certain times like when we finished a meal. Now look at now, we use phones almost everywhere and at anytime. We use it when were eating, driving, games, and so on. Also due to the newer phones we are also playing games are browsing the internet. What is happening to us.
Adult written by EMCNC

Yes! And phones distract from doing homework as well. Not a lot of reasons for a child to have a smart phone. I honestly can't think of one good reason for a child, tween/teen to have a phone with internet connection. If the phone is for communication purposes, a flip or Go phone work great for that, and you avoid the wasted hours every day of drama, inappropriate content, voyeurism, gaming and cyberbullying, just to name a few things.
Teen, 15 years old written by JohnnyH2000

Actually, Apple recently released iOS 9.3.1 which adds a feature called "Night Shift", so the blue light? Not a problem anymore.
Parent of a 8, 10, 13, and 16 year old written by Dave E.

Great tips, Caroline! One of my colleagues has an easy to remember phrase that helps with this: "Be where your feet are." More on that here: http://goo.gl/PJHWoC We have found that over 1/2 of our students' parents keep digital devices out of kids' bedrooms at night: http://goo.gl/Yx9n7M Here are some tips we share with parents. We always suggest they check out Common Sense Media, you are a great resource! http://goo.gl/OObREj