Today with everyone connected all of the time, families need to think about scheduling disconnect time at home. Recently I read that, before cabinet meetings at the White House, the president requires attendees to leave phones and Blackberries in a basket by the door. Without interruptions from communication devices, people can concentrate on the conversation and on the important issues. Most importantly, cabinet members are able to listen to each other without distractions.
Families, too, need uninterrupted communication time. Parents may want to develop home guidelines that mirror cabinet meeting expectations. The Pew Internet and American Life Project offers wide-ranging information setting sensible mobile phone and texting limits.
Family meals are the perfect time to disconnect phones and Blackberries. Increasingly, pediatricians and other family researchers believe that regular, all-family mealtimes provide children with a range of advantages. To improve communication and interaction, each person can turn off the ringer and deposit his or her phone in a location away from the table, preferably in another room. Dinner table conversation can proceed uninterrupted so family members will listen more carefully to one another. Make the dining room a gadget-free zone during meal times.
In the June 2009 article, Incessant Teen Texting Causes Health Concern, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes how pre-adolescents and teens frequently text at late at night and the health concerns that result. The May 2009 New York Times Well Blog article, Texting May Be Taking a Toll, provides more information about teen digital activities that occur inappropriate times. To ensure your child gets the right amount of sleep, specify the times of the day that a cell or smart phone can and cannot be used. One family I know has developed a central charging location in their home. At bedtime charge all cell phones in a location away from bedrooms. The charging center can also be used as a resting place for cell phones during homework times when media multi-tasking interferes with efficient study time.
Recently this blog featured a book review of Brain Rules. In his book, author John Medina, Ph.D. challenges multi-tasking assumptions, including the idea that students can multi-task effectively during study times. The Pew Internet and American Life Project has also published facts about kids, phones, and texting, a resources that will be helpful to parents.