By Janell Burley Hofmann
(The Huffington Post) The hustle of family life -- work, school, appointments, practice, homework, dinner, bed -- is constant. We move in and out of activities and commitments with ferocity. Some days, I'm certain all I really say to my children, in one way or another, is "move." As in, let's go -- now! And I know that we move with purpose, balancing meaningful work with practical considerations, valuing studies, deliberately selecting activities that matter. In our world, food, family even and free play have a firm place, often touted as sacred and protected ground. And since our life is designed to fully embrace living it, we have to be mindful of all the pieces that might creep in and occupy more than their fair share. Technology is one of those pieces.
All at once, it seems, our children began leaving diapers, cribs and strollers for backpacks, playdates and sports. Seemingly, the technology infiltrated just as suddenly. One day I was managing public preschool television programming and a small selection of desktop computer games, the next, portable devices, social networks, e-readers, video games and the everywhere of the Internet. I had to adapt to the shift, but that didn't mean I couldn't manage the multiple screens like I manage our family philosophy of purpose. With the same vision of mindfulness we apply in other areas of our life, the Slow Tech philosophy was born.
The Slow Tech movement began with boundaries, or iRules -- specific ways we would use the technology, carefully outlined to consider age, academic need, personal tendencies and type of devices. These guidelines supported our expectations of each individual child. Then we made house rules built on strategies that would work for the entire family system. It became less about the constant use of technology and more about how we use the technology. Like anything else, it felt vital that our relationship to technology be healthy, with high standards for respect, personal responsibility and embracing all the positives the technology can offer. We talk about it, constantly and continuously, as it changes and grows like our family. Slow Tech parenting isn't about perfection; it's about awareness. It's about knowing what works for your family, what aligns with your values and beliefs and above all what matters enough to protect and preserve as a parent.
Want to Become a Slow Tech Family? Try These Ideas:
1. Designate "No Phone Zones" or other tech-free times (for children and adults) to be together without interruption or distraction. This works great during mealtimes, car rides, family outings or at bedtime.
2. Wait! Just wait -- in line, at the doctor's office, for the bus, at school pickup -- just sit and wait. You never know what thought might arise or conversation might start if you're hands free and eyes up.
3. Watching TV or a movie on the couch? All eyes on one screen! In our house, we say, "No double dipping!" -- i.e., don't give more than one screen your attention at a time.
4. Hold the photo! Go for a walk, a meal, a playground visit or that performance without snapping a picture. Watch it through your own lens and absorb the moment.
5. Say "tell me" instead of "show me." It's so easy to quickly pull up a definition, video or example. Every now and then, sprinkle a "convo only" house rule around that kitchen island.
6. Start and end the day device-free. Allow for proper shutdown, and keep sleep sacred!
7. Slow Tech yourself. Think of all the ways technology has annoyed or invaded your life. Practice protecting yourself from it. Then identify the ways your life is techpositive, and use those aspects as a celebration of technology.