How Plugged-In Families Can Have a Device-Free(ish) Holiday

The trick is to downsize -- not demolish -- your family's reliance on technology over the holidays. By Caroline Knorr
How Plugged-In Families Can Have a Device-Free(ish) Holiday

What's topping your kids' holiday wish lists this year? Chances are it has a screen, Internet access, and games. With a little planning -- and kids' assistance -- you can balance your family's tech activities with much-needed face time. Here's how:

Be jolly -- but firm. Let your kids know that you'll be enforcing stricter time limits to create more quality family time. And tell them that the rules will apply to the grown-ups as well. Use your phone's built-in features (Screen Time in iOS 12 and Digital Wellbeing in Android Pie) to determine how much time you're spending online and which apps you use the most -- and pare back where you can.

Make a list (and check it with your kids). Don't go cold turkey. Schedule some daily tech time for yourself and your kids. Get their input on which devices they absolutely can't live without, and allow some limited use. If their apps have settings that help curb use, such as the ones on Tik Tok, YouTube, and Snapchat -- then by all means, enable them. 

Plan a device-free dinner. Put the phones and tablets in a basket and don't check 'em til the dishes are done. Learn what not to do from Will Ferrell

Have a download derby. Browse the app store together. Look for games and activities that the whole family can enjoy, such as the ones on our our best app lists.

Make setup fun, not frustrating. No matter how easy to use companies make new devices, there's always some (often frustrating) setup time. Truth be told, kids often figure out thorny tech glitches faster than parents, so involve your kids in the process. Use that time to discuss responsible use of the new device.

Try some tech togetherness. Unplugging for its own sake isn't the point. Family time is. Plan a night of video games, movies, or maybe preselected YouTube videos that you can all enjoy together.

Combine on- and offline activities. Document your family memories and consider compiling them into journals, cards, and scrapbooks. This is a perfect time to share your own holiday memories with your kids.

If no creatures are stirring … don't check your email. Remember, your kids learn their media habits partly from you. Use quiet time to reflect on ways you can maximize the benefits of technology without letting it take over your family's life.

Have an old-fashioned holiday. Challenge your family to choose low- or no-tech versions of favorite activities. Generate fun on your own steam -- no WiFi, data, or plugs.

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 (3)

Adult written by Lois W.

We will be hosting a device free dinner at our school and our hope is to make parents more aware of dinner conversation. Thanks for all the great ideas!
Adult written by The Windlass

WOW, this is the most DISAPPOINTING article I've ever read here! With a title like "8 Ways to Unplug," I was expecting some fun suggestions for non-tech activities, instead, all but one were about USING tech, and the last one just said, "challenge your family to use low- or no-tech"--um, DUH, I thought that was what you were going to give us ideas for. Sheesh. So disappointed!
Parent of a 12, 14, and 17 year old written by janmac

My thoughts as well. No reminders how fun it is to make gingerbread houses (kits available for $7), great xmas or new year books to read together, no good winter outing or snow building ideas… sigh.