I know, I know…you have probably been bombarded recently by blogs, Facebook status updates and emails of people declaring their New Year Resolutions. Loose weight, get fit, drink green smoothies, eat raw food, spend more time with the kids, get more sleep… Sound familiar? I am going to share some of mine, but they are of the digital variety.
There is no denying that technology is now an integral part of your life and that of your children or students too. As you spend time in the new year reflecting on last year and planning for 2014, it is a good idea to contemplate how digital media will fit into your life and your family life.
I don’t know about you, but too frequently I have let technology dictate my life. Technology has managed me. I have not managed technology. Yep, I said it. Even as a children’s technology researcher I have failed dismally in this area.
In 2013 gadgets and screens consumed my work time (yes my toddler thinks my job involves playing apps and talking on the phone!). If I am really honest I will also declare that it controlled my leisure time.
I recently took another digital sabbatical. Jana from Mums Juggling Act calls it an ‘information cleanse’. Like any cleanse it is good for the body (and soul). Over the Christmas holiday period when I digitally disconnected for a couple of days, I realised how reliant (bordering on addicted) I am on technology. Yes, the children’s technology researcher even has some issues of her own…
During my period of digital disconnection I began to see how attached I am to gadgets. Normally I would check social media and emails as soon as I returned home from a morning gym session (before I have even had a shower). Sometimes I would even check these at the gym between exercises (I know, I know…I am that person). I would use my laptop right up before I went to bed (despite writing blog posts about the importance of switching off from technology at least 90 minutes before bed). I would also feel compelled to check Instagram just one more time before I went to bed, just in case there was a new photo to like. Sound familiar?
So my digital sabbatical has prompted me to think differently about how I will use technology in 2014 and how my family will use it.
So here are my 2014 Digital Resolutions-
*Try to have one screen-free day a week (or perhaps a designated screen-free period). As you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram, my first week attempting this resolution was not so successful. I know how important this is for my brain (allows it to re-callibrate itself, develops creativity and is just a good habit to start). For example, you come up with creative solutions to problems when your mind can wander. Your mind cannot wander when you are constantly scrolling through your Twitter feed. However, it is so hard to have complete screen-free time in this highly digital world. It is easy to pick up your phone and check social media. But it is absolutely critical to ‘switch off’. For me, it is important that I ‘walk the talk’. Not only as a children’s technology researcher, but also as a Mum. I must show my sons that I can manage technology and not let it manage me. Remember, kids are inheriting our media habits.
*Limit my screen use in the hour before bed. I know, I know it should be 90 minutes before bedtime as the research suggests. But as a work-at-home mum that window of opportunity between kids’ bedtime and my bedtime is a critical work period. So I figure 60 minutes should make a difference. Give your devices a bedtime and see if it makes a difference (lots of parents tell me this makes a HUGE difference with their children, as it is something I suggest in the Parent Seminars I deliver).
*Limit how often, when and how I check email. I have started to check email standing up (another great tip from Jana) and at three designated periods throughout the day. I tell you, standing up to check emails makes me much more focused. I have also turned off my email alerts on my phone. Two words: life changing. It has made such a difference. No longer do I hear the beeps and alerts and as a result I don’t feel compelled to check my email frequently. You should try it.
*Absolutely NO phone use in the car. Never. I don’t talk or text on the phone whilst driving. I am adamant about this. But I confess, I have been known to quickly check email (or Instagram) while sitting in traffic (I told you this was a juicy post). No more. I know I have two pairs of eyes watching my every move in the backseat of the car and the last message I want to send to them is that it is okay to sometimes use your phone in the car. No phones in car, period.
*The biggest and hardest one for me is to limit my time on social media. I told my husband this resolution and he laughed (he of no faith). I often assure him that I am on Facebook or Twitter for ‘work’ and it is true…well to some extent and some of the time. However, a lot of the time on social media is spent as a voyeur and I have realised what a time suck this is for me. This resolution is also the one that you are probably likely to catch me out on, so give me a holler if you see me loitering on social media. I am going to have set periods of time dedicated to social media and assign time limits for checking social media. And I am going to stick to them (well at least try to). Try it yourself, set the timer for 10 minutes on your phone and only check your social media then.
*Schedule media time. I know this one might seem a little ambitious, but it is so important. With a huge range of devices now available too often technology creeps into our lives. No more arguing with my three-year old about if he can watch a You Tube clip about diggers before breakfast (yes, even this children’s technology researcher has these arguments with her son), or watch another TV show. With a media plan, it is all scheduled ahead of time.
*Watch an entire movie! Yep, this one is not a typo. I wanted to finish on a positive note. I haven’t actually watched a complete movie in over three years. So 2014 is the year of watching a movie from beginning to end. And enjoying it! So hit me up with your suggestions.
Tell me in the comments below, do you and your family have any ‘digital resolutions’? Are you going to try any of these? I;d love to hear how they go.