This post was originally published on McAfee’s Family Safety Blog by author Toni Birdsong. Used with permission.
I tinkered with the idea of signing off Facebook for the holidays. I even wrote the popular “I’m unplugging for the holidays” post, looked at it for a moment, and then deleted it. What about the holiday photos I wanted to share? And the fun pictures of friends and family that had become a welcome part of my routine? Oh, and all those kids dressed in holiday outfits — I confess — I look forward to the warm fuzzies that come with seeing babies or puppies online. Sad but true, Facebook has become my daily dose of Vitamin F for fun (or rather, Vitamin D for distraction).
Is that so bad? Yes and no.
No, it’s not a ding in our character if we hop online seeking out friends, knowledge, laughs, or entertaining content to fill our curiosity wells. However, it becomes a problem when we spend more time (and prefer) scrolling through pictures of Christmas lights rather than getting in the car together to see them. Or, when we’d rather admire, like, and comment on other people’sChristmas memories rather than taking time to create our own.
Real life trumps screen life — every single time.
So here’s the challenge. Don’t try to go cold turkey with your screentime — and by screen time we mean smartphone, tv, tablets, and gaming systems — just try to reduce that time by half. Pay attention to the activity that takes most of your time and cut that out. For me, as noted, that would be Facebook. For some reason, I’ve started checking Facebook before I even open my email — not a wise strategy for a successful day. Without thinking, I find myself giving my first 20 minutes of my day scrolling, liking, searching for the right emoji, wishing people happy birthday, writing heartfelt comments, and clicking on a variety of news links that frankly, I could skip.
Maybe your one vice is endless hours of Hallmark movies, Netflix binging, or a favorite news channel. We challenge you to cut that routine in half.
So this holiday, will you join us? We’re not trying to be perfect, just trying to do better with the valuable 24 hours we have each day. For every hour you are absent from your screen, you become fully present to enjoy family and friends and make this holiday season unforgettable.
Need a little nudge off the couch (I do!)? Here are just a few ideas that may inspire you to reduce your tech and boost your family time.
Dream a little.
Fire up the imaginations. Ask each family member what the perfect holiday looks like to them. Then, figure out how to make as many of those ideas come to life this holiday as possible. Maybe it’s starting a new tradition together, finding a favorite story to read each night, sharing more meals around the table, visiting a tree farm, making handmade gifts, finding local events to attend, Christmas caroling, volunteering in a soup kitchen, ice skating, or taking a few outings to pop in and visit friends you’ve been missing.
Grab some rays.
Get outside. Grab your mittens, your hat, and head out. Tip: Don’t take a poll and ask who wants to go, just announce the family hike that’s about to go down. Because screen time can physically deplete our senses, green time — time spent outdoors — can be a simple, but powerful way to recharge the spirits and refresh perspectives. A hefty dose of Vitamin D from sunlight and moving your eyes from a boxed-in screen to a boundless sky is one of mother nature’s most potent anti-depressants. And, it will bring your family together immediately.
Make unplugging fun.
Depending on the age of your kids, unplugging may seem like a punishment. So make it fun. Play a game. For every half or a full day spent minus a device or tv, let your child choose and plan how to spend the day. Maybe it’s volunteering, baking cookies, playing board games, singing Karaoke together, doing a puzzle or craft together, or spending time together downloading all those online photos and making real photo albums.
Plan for success.
Make sure you are armed and ready with activity suggestions before you set screen limits. Don’t underestimate the fact that some of the best family memories have likely been planned out. Winging it and trusting kids to keep themselves busy apart from their devices could disappoint.
Prepare a family meal together.
What’s your family heritage? Have you explored the foods related to your country of origin? Find some of the meals your ancestors may have prepared and have a culinary adventure together in the kitchen. Or, if you have a few of grandma’s recipes on hand, now is a great time pass the torch to the next generation.
Build team spirit.
It’s never too late to start the tradition of a family football, basketball, bowling, mini-golf, or volleyball tournament. Split into teams, wager a few chocolate Santas, and let the tech-less games begin.
The possibilities here are endless. Get an oversized canvas, some acrylic paints, and create a family masterpiece together. Add some dimension. Use magazines clippings, old clock parts, discarded jewelry, and even some small childhood toys or book pages to create a meaningful collage that represents the whole family. Not into paint? Make some handmade ornaments that represent each family member’s unique personality or make a Christmas tree garland using paper or cranberries and popcorn.
It’s easy to read this article, nod in agreement, then tuck it away in your database without taking action. But if you do just one thing on this list, consider your holiday a success. It won’t be easy. Routine — especially a digital routine — can be tough to break. You aren’t alone; we’re accepting the challenge as well to unplug and plug fully into the holiday season. Happy Less-Tech Holidays to you and yours and let us know how it goes!