Did you see the latest report from Common Sense Media? This 2015 national survey shows an average daily media use of 6 hours for tweens and 9 hours for teens. This does not include time spent on computers for homework. Given the ubiquity of smartphones, the results are not surprising. Given the need to keep life in balance, family bonds could be an antidote to a device’s magnetic pull.
As my tweens grow (they are now 10 and 12), we continue to prioritize time spent together over time spent apart. This lifestyle is building family bonds while keeping media in a healthy place. Here are examples of our simple daily choices to keep family first in life’s list of growing priorities:
Car rides with conversations
Rides to and from school do not include devices. They do include conversations about upcoming activities, homework load, and social life on the playground. Sometimes they include random questions about life, or just listening to music together.
Family dinner happens most nights, except one or two nights a week when my husband and I want a private conversation or when an activity conflicts. This involves joint planning in the morning about what’s for dinner, so ingredients can be arranged for the evening’s meal.
Walking is one of my favorite activities. The girls are old enough to join us when homework and activity schedules permit. Like car rides, neighborhood walks provide uninterrupted time to discuss mutual topics of interest between parent and child.
Watching sports as a family
After a long day, we love to put on a baseball or basketball game. Our favorite teams are the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors. Watching a game together spurs conversations about game rules, great plays, and favorite athletes. “Wow, did you see that? Watch the replay!” are phrases that keep us in synch and relaxed.
Games on the living room carpet
Alphabet Dice Game, in addition to Sorry, have been recent family favorites to play once homework is done or on the weekends. We also have Mastermind, Connect 4, and Yahtzee in the RV for day-trips and camping trips.
Reading and visiting the library together
Having a stack of books to fuel our next read is essential for everyone in the family. In chapter 14 of the new book Tap, Click, Read by Michael Levine and Lisa Guernsey, they note a common refrain of modern society — “kids today have such a short attention span, they just won’t sit and read a book.” By having plenty of book choices around, and enough time on our hands to sit around and read, we hope reading will continue to be a number-one leisure activity for our children.
Quiet homes, focused time
To encourage reading, and just the plain ability to focus quietly, our home is often quiet. TVs are off by default, and turned on only for a specific purpose. Our routine is usually school, homework, play/activity/read, dinner, family time, bed. After school and during homework time, the house is quiet. The quieter the house, the better everyone can focus and get their work done.
My goal is to keep media in check through the high school years. This is why I read reports, learn how to use social media networks, and try my best to uphold a family-first lifestyle. I don’t know if we’ll be able to pull it off, but the more bonds we forge now, the better our chances may be.