8 Ways to Unplug Your Holidays
By Caroline Knorr, commonsensemedia.org
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What’s topping the holiday wish lists this year? Chances are it has a screen, Internet access, and games. If the kids are lucky enough to unwrap a Nintendo Wii U or an iPad Mini, then it’s up to Auntie to help figure out how to balance all the fun with family time. (See our editors’ picks for Wii U games and iPad apps.)
As much as well all love and depend on our high-tech toys, our reliance on them—let’s face it—can get in the way of the warm and cozy family time we so carefully scheduled (probably on our electronic calendar).
An outright ban on digital devices won’t win the respect of your nieces and nephews—or their compliance. But with a little planning and intentional involvement, you can help balance the family’s tech activities with much-needed face time. Here’s how:
1. Be jolly—but firm.
Explain to your nieces and nephews that you hope to downsize—not demolish—the family’s reliance on technology over the holidays. Let them know that you hope for stricter time limits to create more quality family time, especially if you’re hosting the holiday party this year. And tell them that the rules will apply to the grown-ups as well!
2. Make a list (and check it with the kids if possible).
Schedule some daily tech time for yourself and for the kids when they visit. Get their input on which devices they absolutely “can’t live without,” and allow some limited use.
3. Have a download derby.
Browse the app store together. Look for games and activities that everyone can enjoy like our Multiplayer App recommendations. Consider allowing your nieces and nephews to download some of the apps directly to your own devices so that they can play the next time they visit!
4. Make setup fun, not frustrating.
No matter how easy it is to use the device, there’s always some (often frustrating) setup time. Truth be told, kids often figure out thorny tech glitches faster than adults, so involve your nieces and nephews in the process. Use that time to discuss responsible use of the new device.
5. 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—provided you have their parents’ consent.
6. Combine on- and offline activities.
Many new devices offer cameras and video-capture capabilities. Have fun documenting your family memories and consider compiling them into journals, cards, and scrapbooks. This is a perfect time to share your own holiday memories with the kids.
7. If no creatures are stirring…don’t check your email.
Remember, your nieces and nephews 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.
8. 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. When you balance these activities with your usual routine, it may actually make the kids more appreciative of what they have.
Published: December 19, 2012