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6 Ways to Prioritize Family Time Over Screen Time This Holiday

Make the season brighter (without the glow of devices!) for real together moments

Technology is a natural part of holiday planning and events as you and your family celebrate traditions, old and new. Sharing photos, scheduling meet-ups and watching holiday movies together are great ways to engage with tech during the holiday season. But then there’s the urge to scroll through social media at the table, at parties, or while opening gifts, losing out on potentially awesome IRL moments. “Real time living, in general, improves social connection and immune function, decreases blood pressure, improves social empathy and the feeling of connection, and the ability to experience and express love,” says Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction.

Those are big things. Here are ways to cultivate mindfulness and build deeper connections this holiday season and beyond.

1. Think twice before gifting devices.
Overuse of devices is particularly tricky around the holidays, because they are often given as presents. “It might, on the one hand, look like it's something nice that you're doing,” says Dr. Greenfield. “But, on the other hand, it's encouraging increased time online. And building the illusion that newer, bigger, faster, more is better. And that's not true. Newer technology doesn't really make you happier. It just gives you that temporary illusion that it's going to be better.”

2. Keep phones out of sight during peak holiday moments.
Time to open gifts or enjoy a holiday meal together? A no-phone policy during these key moments can allow for better connection. “We are programmed to connect and interact,” says Dr. Greenfield. “We are not programmed to stare at the screen. If you want to really connect with people and have people connect with you, put the screens away.” Be cheeky about it: Grab a bowl, collect everyone’s phone (adults too!) and lock it in a cabinet for all to see. Not going to happen in your house? Try putting phones on sleep mode or use Circle’s Pause the Internet® feature during family time.

3. Pull out a puzzle or board game.
With devices locked away or turned off, it’s the perfect time to challenge your family to a board game or jigsaw. Dr. Greenfield followed his own advice at a recent family getaway in Vermont and was pleasantly surprised by the results. “There were seven or eight people working on this puzzle,” he recalls. “There were no screens. It held people's attention for hours, but more importantly, it allowed for complete interaction.”

4. Try using an old-school camera.
Capturing memories is a huge part of holiday fun, so it’s tempting to keep your phone around to take pictures or videos. But it’s also tempting to immediately send those memories by text or post them on social media. Suddenly you’re staring at your phone again and again, anticipating comments and likes, and no longer experiencing the event itself. Eliminate the post-and-send distraction altogether by simply using a camera (an amusing relic for kids). “The beauty about a camera is that there's no confusion about what it's being used for,” Dr. Greenfield says. “You can send photos later to everybody.”

5. Model the etiquette you’d like to see.
Kids are really good at calling out parents who don’t follow their own rules, making it hard to enforce them. “It's got to start from the top,” says Dr. Greenfield. “It's important to remember that whatever limits, boundaries, and rules parents set on screens, they have to be for everybody.”

6. Consider installing software or apps like Circle.
Dr. Greenfield offers a host of screen time etiquette tips for any time of year, including using technology to help you manage your family’s devices. He explains, “This takes you out of the equation and your child will learn to budget how much time they have and help develop more mindful use of his or her technology. It also decreases the potential for arguments and conflicts between the parent and the child.”

Learn more about how Circle App can help you manage screen time during the holidays with Filters, Time Limits, Bedtimes and more.


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