Let’s face it: 2020 was a year for the books in so many ways. It had us glued to our devices for everything: to work, to help kids with school, to check pandemic updates, to check election updates. Most of us, at some point, hit screen-time overload.
2020 was the year we spent too much time online.
From virtual schooling to working from home, and online gaming with friends to endless messaging on various apps, my family of five spent more time online in 2020 than I would care to recount for you.
And before you think I’m strictly complaining, know that I’m not entirely annoyed by the copious amount of hours we were all plugged in in 2020. After all, the Internet and all its connected glory can be a great way to learn, connect, play and relax.
But it’s also easy to tell myself I’m “just going to check one quick thing” on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, etc., and end up down a rabbit-hole of wasted time. And my kids and husband are no different. They can “just want five minutes, Mom,” to log on and play Roblox, Fortnite, Zelda and so on, and, before we all know it, multiple hours have passed us by.
Setting Tech Resolutions for 2021
So this year, as I sit down and make my list of resolutions for 2021 (I’m finally going to lose the last 20 pounds! I’m finally going to open the Roth IRA I’ve talked about for at least five years! I’m finally going to get my half marathon time below two hours!), I’ve also prioritized setting a few technology guidelines and resolutions for 2021.
When I told my oldest daughter this, she instantly bristled. “Why Mom? Why are you doing this to us?,” she complained, even though she had absolutely no idea what resolutions I even had in mind. But this served as a reminder to both her and me that resolutions aren’t punishments, and tech resolutions for the new year shouldn’t be treated as such. Rather, resolutions are goals to set and milestones to strive toward.
Resolutions are meant to better your life and the lives of those around you.
When I reminded her that I wasn’t trying to use these resolutions as punishments, but as a reminder that sometimes we need to log off and connect face to face rather than strictly online, or that we need to play by utilizing our bodies and not just our devices, she reluctantly agreed that maybe, just maybe, a few tech resolutions wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Tech Resolutions for 2021
No devices at the dinner table. Or the lunch table. Or the breakfast table. When you are sitting and eating with another human, you should interact with him or her, face to face, rather than look down at your device.
Set a daily shut-off time for devices. In our house, devices will be powered off at 7 pm for kids, 9 pm for adults on school and work nights. This gives us time to adequately prepare for bed and establish a routine to tell our bodies it’s time to rest. No more telling me “Just five more minutes, Mom!,” when I’ve asked you to brush your teeth three times.
Limit the number of weekly hours spent online and watching TV. For us, it will be no more than 15 hours per week of TV and online gaming in any combination. Online gaming is fun. Watching TV is fun. But so is jumping on a trampoline, going for a swim, playing a board game, going to the park and so on. Kids need to exercise their bodies and their minds. Adults too!
Try to make connections with friends and family near and far more personal with your devices. I admit- I text. Everybody. For every reason. I never call anyone. At all. Except maybe the doctor or dentist to schedule an appointment. Everyone else I text. And, while it can certainly be easier to shoot a quick text than to get sucked into an entire conversation, it’s much lonelier! This year, I’m going to encourage my kids to FaceTime their friends and family instead of just sending them notes on Messenger. And I, too, am going to try to pick up the phone, at least once a month, to have a conversation with friends and hear their voices! I may even try to FaceTime more, but I’m trying to set realistic goals here!
Reward extra hours for educational content. In my opinion, an hour spent on TikTok is not the same as an hour spent on Rosetta Stone. And an hour spent listening to stories on StoryTime Online is preferred to an hour spent on Roblox. We allow our kiddos extra “free hours” to view educational content if they choose, but, oftentimes to them, it just feels like extra screen time. So we all win!
If you do need more screen-time beyond the weekly limit you’ve set for yourself and your family, set clear guidelines on how to earn more. When my kids exhaust their daily or weekly screen-time allowances, we make them earn more time in one of two ways: physical play or chores. I’m the same way! When I’ve sat in front of my computer for too long, I get up and walk around the block for 15 minutes before sitting back down. If my kiddos want 30 more minutes of Roblox after they’ve reached their daily max, they can either vacuum or bounce on the trampoline. In the colder months, you’d be surprised how clean my carpets are!
Whatever your tech resolutions for 2021 may be, remember that they are meant to help everyone and not as punishment. Make them specific and measurable and remember, sometimes it’s okay to bend your own rules, as long as you keep the goal in mind!