When you close your eyes at night, what do you see? Is it a scrolling bar that ends up sounding like the ramblings of a crazy person? "Sarah Smith likes Diet Coke. Anthony Jones likes K-Mart. Pink slingbacks are now trending on Twitter!" In a modern household, spending a great deal of time on the internet is a foregone conclusion. In the working world, it's even worse. You're expected to be connected at all times for an email, a text, or a phone call. The obsession with connectivity has led to busier lives both in and out of the office, and new advances in technology aren't doing anything to lessen the problems. With this in mind, it has become increasingly important to take some time to disconnect everything, even if it is just for a brief 24 hours.
Reducing Connectivity Produces Connections
How often do you see an advertisement where a family sits around a table and has an actual conversation that doesn't include incognito texting or tweeting under the dinner table? The landscape for family dinners has changed so drastically with the introduction of smartphones and tablets that family dinner has become a family plus Facebook dinner, where the virtual guests are invited to ogle your meal via Instagram, and find the recipe through suggested banner advertisements.
Being connected to everyone in this way may seem nice at first, but the flood of food images on the internet do very little to teach your children how to interact on a social level. Mealtimes are communal invitations to practice social skills, and young children especially need to learn how to socialize rather than social network. The way that children relate to others is largely dictated by their regular social interactions with parents and family, who are the biggest influence when it comes to learning the so-called ins and outs of communication. Whenever possible, you should toss that smartphone in a drawer and eat dinner without the constant threat of a text.
Think (and Play) Outside the Box
Nobody needs to bring up the specifics of the well-documented obesity epidemic in the U.S. to see that the problems with sedentary lifestyles are a real threat. Finding an outdoor activity to do with your family may be just the kind of incentive needed to unplug everything and be active. A few rounds of catch will not only help a growing child develop stronger hand-eye coordination; it will also give him or her a sense of accomplishment based on their own abilities to succeed.
Athletic activities often go hand in hand with the practice of socializing that we talked about before. While gathering around a dinner table is an excellent opportunity to practice socializing, gathering in a soccer field for a game adds a new level of complexity to socializing. Your child will learn to communicate not only intent but also work together towards a common goal, which is important to impress upon a child.
You don't just have to play sports to help foster better communication skills. If your child has an interest in construction, then help him or her build something. If your child enjoys art, take a shot at an en plein air painting project or teach your child to snap a few photos outdoors. Putting yourself and your child in a new setting will foster creativity and encourage adventurousness.
Participate in Something Great
In the digital age, most people might believe that giving something a "Like" on Facebook is enough to be involved, but having your child cooperate with real people on achieving an actual goal will do a great deal more than clicking a button. Whether this means volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping out at an animal shelter, participating in a good cause will help your child develop a sense of autonomy and personal responsibility. Volunteering time towards a good cause also brings your child the opportunity to sustain good habits throughout life.
Nobody says that you have to be unplugged all the time, and being connected does certainly have its benefits for some people. When it comes to helping your child develop good habits and communication skills, however, unplugging every once in a while can bring with it a sense of balance, a renewed focus, and ultimately the chance to be present within the moment rather than just a spectator of yet another beach vacation album on Facebook.
Looking for a way to keep your family safe and responsible at home? Read our eBook for rules and tips: “15 Digital Safety Rules Every Household Should Follow.”