After a busy day in the public sphere, it’s a beautiful thing to come home. Our house is a sanctuary, a safe place to relax and regroup. And it’s where we cultivate some of our most intimate relationships.
Up until the early decades of the 20th century, the family home was viewed as a private domain that should not be intruded upon by the marketplace. But the development of new technologies like the telephone, radio, and television blurred the line between our public and private spheres.
Today, we give a host of companies and organizations intimate access to our family through our screens, subscriptions, digital assistants, and smart appliances. This erosion of our private time and our place of refuge affects our relationships and our wellbeing.
It’s one reason loneliness has reached epidemic levels in recent years and why suicide rates have risen by 30% over the last two decades.
Families live together but often spend hours each day separately connected to a pipeline of entertainment and information from the public square. It’s time to reclaim our homes.
Maximize your ability to safeguard and nurture your family with these five simple steps to keep your technology at home in check.
Create an Unplug Box.
Make your own or go buy one. An Unplug box gives you a convenient place to store smartphones and tablets while you take a break from them. A true break from an object involves physical as well as mental distance.
The Unplug box reduces the urge to pick it up, allowing you to focus on other things.
Try using your Unplug box the first hour of each day. Try going screen-free one whole day a week as a family. Learn to embrace the feeling of separation between body and screen. It’ll bring more clarity and commitment to your family time.
Ditch the digital assistants.
Instant access to information and content may by handy, but the long-term effects of gadgets like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home outweigh the short-term benefits. For starters, your family’s privacy takes a hit.
Digital assistants collect a host of data from your home, including recordings, time spent on devices, floorplans, user preferences, and more.
Companies can use and sell this data as they see fit, including to sell you more stuff. No outside entity deserves that kind of window into your private life.
Your family’s ability to learn also takes a hit. As Robert A. Bjork, the director of the Learning and Forgetting Lab at UCLA, points out, learning needs to have difficulty to be effective.
Learning is a journey that takes time and effort. It’s not an instant download. And the more reliant on quick information access we become, the more entitled and lazier we’ll get.
Defend your family’s privacy and learning skills by saying no to digital assistants.
Dust off the old games and buy some new ones.
Making time at home for happy family moments is crucial. Turn the screens off and play a game together. It doesn’t matter what game it is: Hungry Hippos, Chutes & Ladders, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Charades, Ticket to Ride, matching games, puzzles, dominoes. It’s the coming together and the letting loose that counts.
And while everyone is having fun, important social skills are being practiced, like communication, teamwork, and good sportsmanship.
Funny, those are some of the exact skills we desperately need more of in today’s fraught political and social climate. As famed businessman and tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton put it almost a hundred years ago: “Home is the laboratory of character.”
Like flossing your teeth, reading aloud as a family is a simple activity that comes with a lot of benefit. The more we read aloud to our kids, the more likely they will read when they grow up. They’ll also have a larger vocabulary, be more perceptive, and be more motivated to succeed in school.
Read to your children before they’re even born and continue long after they can read for themselves.
Read them stories written hundreds of years ago as well as newer offerings. Read them books of all kinds.
Give the kids a chance to read aloud, too.
Or, assign characters and read a story together. Enjoy the delightfully analog experience of reading aloud as a family and watch your kids develop skills that will serve them well as adults.
Go retro to stay rooted.
While modern technology certainly has a place in our homes, it’s healthy to mix it up with some old tech, too.
Get a facsimile copy of Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. Or a Bluetooth-enabled turntable with old and new vinyl to spin.
Or maybe an apple press, a typewriter, a pair of World War II binoculars, or a family heirloom that’s been gathering dust in the attic.
Objects like these promote curiosity and will keep your family grounded by the lessons and gifts of the past.
A thoughtful mix of old and new reflects not only the generations in your own family but also the history and culture of the nation at large.
Your home is a much-needed sanctuary for your family, especially in the digital age.
These five ideas will help you stay boss over the technology you allow into your house so you can safeguard what is most important in your life.