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The connected life can leave you disconnected—here’s how to help you and your family overcome the constant pull of electronic media, social and otherwise BY CHARLIE SIMPSON

In days of old, many parents would shake their heads and wonder what the world was coming to. They were concerned about the younger generation’s preoccupation with television, music or video games. These consumer items were considered rude interruptions to traditional family activities and often frowned upon or tightly controlled by parents or authority figures. Nowadays, for generations young and old, technology and its devices have moved beyond “interruptions” and have assumed a status as essential tools for daily living. American adults spend more than 12 hours a day with various media, according to research company eMarketer. Several of these hours are spent multitasking by viewing television while browsing the Internet. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study reveals that children ages 8 to 18 spend almost 11 hours per day with media, with 29 percent of that time spent multitasking like their adult counterparts. Ironically, our connected world has diminished personal accessibility for every age group. It’s more important than ever to ensure that you as a parent are available, regardless of the immediate demand that a text message, email or social media post may present. Parenting doesn’t take a break, and if your children are to thrive you have to maintain personal connections with them. Here are a few ideas to overcome media’s pull. CREATE BOUNDARIES: Your children need to know that there are appropriate times to use their electronics—and time to unplug. Immediately


after school is a good time for them to play sports or board games, read books or magazines, dance, or hang out with friends instead of spending time online. Ration the kids’ time with Netflix or other streaming services so that unlimited access doesn’t become a habitual practice. The dinner table should be an electronics-free zone—you can choose a topic of conversation to discuss. In the car, try turning off the radio or mp3 player and engaging in conversation or just enjoy some quiet time. Every waking moment doesn’t have to be filled with sound or stimulation. And collect portable electronic devices before bedtime and secure them so there’s no access during sleep hours. CREATE SPACE: Plan a block of tech-free time on weekends to fill with outdoor or out-of-the-house activities. Everyone can benefit from being more physically active, and central Arkansas offers a huge assortment of reasons to get out of the house. Check out a local farmers market, go on a nature hike or take an overnight camping trip. If you have to respond to email or text messages in the morning, do so before your kids wake. That lets you spend time with them before school. If you sense a theme developing here, it’s balance. The technology we’ve grown so dependent on in our modern lives is as invasive as we let it be. We’re responsible for maintaining the relationships that define family—just like in the old days. Devoting time to keeping those relationships healthy helps keep technology in its proper place, as a tool.

Profile for Arkansas Times

Savvy | June 2015  

Savvy | June 2015