We are all spending more time on screens due to COVID-19. Parents communicate with colleagues through Zoom, our kids are being taught online, and our entertainment centers around a screen. Okay, so most of our entertainment was on a screen prior to this pandemic, but we still spend more time online than ever before. It’s natural for us to get sucked into our own online world. We are focused on finishing up a report or checking the latest numbers of COVID-19 cases. Our kids are engrossed in a video game and are oblivious to the delicious meal you’ve prepared. Usually our time online is an individualized experience. This can lead us to feel disconnected from those physically around us, mainly our family. A lot of us watch TV or a movie together and this can be a bonding experience. However, most of the time, we are on our phone, laptop, or tablet with no one else experiencing the same thing we are. Each person in the home is on their own device doing their own thing. During this pandemic, let’s change that. Here are some ways to use screens to improve your family’s relationships.
1. Talk Openly About Your Screen Use
The first thing we should do is to be open about our screen use. No matter the age of your child, show them what you’re working on online. Help them understand why you spend time online and the purpose of it. Talk about your online work, entertainment, and social interactions. Show them your Facebook page. Your teenager will think it’s cool (not really). We as parents should set the example of bringing our family together using screens. This doesn’t mean we have to do all our work with our kids by our side. But it could help bring the family together if your children knew more about your world.
2. Listen to Your Family Members About Their Screen Use
After you’ve set the stage by talking about your screen use, inquire about your child's screen use. Depending on previous interactions with your child about screens, this could be met with defensiveness. Approach the topic with genuine curiosity rather than a tone of judgement. Ask, “What are you working on?” “Tell me about the game you’re playing.” “What’s your favorite YouTube video and why?” These questions, when asked with an approachable and soft tone, can open doors for discussion and bonding with your child. No matter the age, kids want to talk about what they are interested in. And if we can show interest in their online world, it can lead to trust, understanding, and an improved relationship.
3. Engage Together Over Screens
Now that you’ve talked about everyone’s screen use, engage in some online activity together. Play the video game with your child, make a Tik Tok video with your teen, or create an online scrapbook with your spouse. Doing something together online can help bring your family together. If you’re playing a video game with your child, they can teach you how to play. They can feel proud and a sense of mastery by showing you the ropes. You can reciprocate the experience and show them how to do something related to your hobbies or work. Do a YouTube workout video together or show them that report you've been working on. These interactions can happen with the entire family but are most effective one-on-one.
4. Learn Something New Online Together
Another great way to bond is by learning something new with your family. Pull up a YouTube video on how to cook, code, or create a DIY wood project. Do something that is new for you and your child. Many activities have little or no cost to start. The point in this learning is not to master the activity, but to enjoy the experience. The point is for you and your child/family member to enjoy the process of learning something new. The Internet has an endless number of how-to videos on any topic imaginable. Use that to your advantage to connect with your family.
5. Lead Your Family in Intentional Time Away from Screens
Time online can bring us together. Time away from screen can also bring us together. Be intentional about spending quality time with your family away from screens. Make it a rule to have no devices on or near the dinner table. Enjoy meals together without the distraction of devices. Go on walks without looking at your phone. Talk about random things with your child during a board game without the stimulation of a screen. Time away from screens is important for every family member. We all need a healthy balance of on and offline time. Spending time off screens can help improve our creativity, eye sight, physical activity, and our ability to be okay with boredom. There are many benefits to online time, but there are also many benefits to offline time.
This pandemic is keeping us connected online. That doesn’t mean it has to keep us disconnected with our families and real-life relationships. Be intentional about your time on screens and with your family. You can improve the bonds with your family during this pandemic that will last a lifetime.