Family Life: It's time to unplug when you're with friends and family
By Chelsey Byers
It's always good to look back and identify the moments that made things good — and the areas of family life that you would like to improve upon.
One part of my life that I have decided to work on this coming year is to be more present when I am with friends and family members. Many people have at least one electronic device, if not multiple, that they carry with them at most times. The ones that initially come to mind are cellphones, tablets, gaming devices, laptops, mp3 players, etc.
These gadgets often help us in some way, but they can become more of a barrier when spending time with our families at home or out with friends.
I recently saw a short video through social media depicting a woman who was being ignored in various settings of her life because everyone she was spending time with was too busy on their phones. It was quite the eye-opener.
Why do we make plans with others and then keep our heads down in our electronics? With the exception of emergency situations, most things can wait for a couple of hours while you engage with the people who are important to you.
If you are at home with your children, play or talk with them and let your electronics rest until they go to bed. Don't let your conversations between you and your teen all happen through text messages.
If you are at dinner, maybe it would work for your family to have a "no electronics at the table" rule. This would ensure that no one can access their devices during that family time.
Sometimes, when I am out with friends, we make it a game. We stack all of our phones face down in the middle of the table and then see who reaches for their phone first.
Spend your time together interacting while playing games, doing hobbies, playing a sport together or getting outside for some fresh air. Unplugging encourages people to get creative and not rely on an electronic device to entertain them.
Our use of technology needs to be balanced to help our lives and not hurt them. It is healthy to set limits for children on how much time they spend in front of televisions, gaming devices or on their phones.
I can remember three times this past year when I really tried to disconnect from my phone and social media. Two of the times I was camping with friends and the third was when I was on vacation. These were great opportunities for me to leave the emails until I returned from my getaways and to not worry about work for a little time.
It is healthy for us to be unplugged for a while. I hope that you will try to be more connected with people you care about. Relationships depend on both parties being active participants. Whether this relationship is with your children, significant other, parent or friend, reach out and be engaged with that person when you have time to spend with them.
For more information on a large variety of family life-related topics, visit the University of Illinois Extension website at web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/ or contact Chelsey Byers at 333-7672 or firstname.lastname@example.org.