How to successfully manage technology use in the family home

Technology might be making our lives richer and more accessible but it also means we’re now spending more time with our devices than our loved ones. Dr Joanne Orlando, a leading expert in the field of children and technology says it’s time to switch off.

She says research shows around 50 per cent of parents interrupt time with their children three or more times every day to use technology – to do things such as checking phone messages or emails during mealtime or conversations.

“We might think, ‘I need to answer this work email’, but what a child sees is that is your phone is more important than they are,” she says. “The more this happens, the more they will feel this way.

“You can think of it like traffic lights. Your child sees a green light when you are talking together. When you stop the conversation to answer your phone it’s a red light – you’ve put a stop to giving them your attention.

“It then turns back to green when you are finished sending your text. Stop-start interactions can be very frustrating for your child if it happens regularly when you talk to them.”

A researcher and educator at TechClever, Dr Orlando says bad technology habits can creep in before we know it. “The new normal is for parents and kids to envelop themselves in a digital cocoon; splitting their attention between their phone, video-games and work emails.

“It means families interacting less with each other in silent homes, giving children less opportunity to bond with their parents, affecting their mental and emotional well-being, sense of security and self-esteem.”

“Research shows lack of skills in these areas can lead to social anxiety and a child is more likely to express feeling bored or unhappy at school and in social situations.”

While completely pulling the plug at home isn’t always possible, she has some simple advice for parents who want to develop healthy family relationships with devices.

“Introduce routines to get everyone talking and connecting again,” she suggests. “Also, be aware of how often you interrupt time with your child to use technology and aim for quality device-free time with them every day.

“Shift away from independent technology use to regularly playing video games or sharing online activities together. Lastly, create a fun tech-free zone in the home to encourage more family talk and interaction.”

Dr Orlando’s tips for managing technology use in the home:

  • Be aware of how often everyone is on their own device
  • Aim to spend more time together device-free
  • Focus on bonding experiences as a family

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Zoe, Ed, and the team.