Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of our town’s annual Memorial Day parade. My 5 year old daughter and several of her Girl Scout friends waved to hundreds of spectators from a float they built as I pulled them in our trailer. It was comforting to see our town, one of many I’m sure, come together to celebrate and connect with one another. As I looked out, driving through Main Street, I noticed the majority of people smiling, waving, and talking with one another. This made me realize what true connection is all about. Being outside together, disconnecting from technology, and getting involved in the community are three facets that help to build true connection. However, unfortunately many people are straying away from this. As a result, more and more people are feeling disconnected from one another which can lead to symptoms of depression.
The Good ol’ Days
I suppose adults have been saying this for generations. We talk about the good ol’ days when we were kids. However, I truly believe that we have been moving in the wrong direction and going further away from the good ol’ days. Remember when we would play outside after school until dark? We would hike back in the woods with a few friends, use our imagination, play kickball, baseball, or basketball in the street until our parents called us in for dinner. Or we would have a sleepover with a friend or two and stay up late talking about anything and everything and laugh until our parents came in, yelled at us, and told us to go to sleep. Today, it can be a beautiful day outside, and kids are inside on an electronic device or playing video games online against their “friends” they rarely see in person or against people they have never met before. Adults even seem to be engaging in this changing world as any pause in the day seems to be filled with the use of technology. They may be waiting for a train or on line at a grocery store and instantly they reach into their pocket to see what’s doing on Facebook or Twitter. If you go out to a restaurant, you will find many ignoring their partner as they are on their phones. They are completely disconnected from the company sitting right in front of them.
Create Your Own Framework
Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means naive about the world we live in today. Technology has grown tremendously and can be an effective communication tool. I would be a hypocrite if I said that I am 100% disconnected from it. That wouldn’t be realistic for me as I typically use it to confirm appointments, check email, and even occasionally browse through Facebook to see what high school friends I haven’t spoken to in years are eating for dinner.
Although we live in a world full of technology, it is super important to create your own framework for you and your family. Set rules and limitations. For instance, I would suggest implementing a no cell phone rule during meals or family time. If you are playing a board game with your partner, that would also be an important time to disconnect from technology. Unplugging at least an hour if not more before bed would be valuable as it can cause significant sleep disruptions. Rather than keeping up to date with your friends on social media, reach out the old fashioned way. Give a friend a phone call, send a letter in the mail, or make plans to meet up for coffee to catch up. These efforts you make towards change will improve your feeling of connectedness and, as a result, you will experience happiness like the good ol’ days.
What About Teenagers?!
You may argue that it is impossible to get your teen off of his phone. If you even tried to take your son’s phone from him, he would scream and even potentially make threats. I am not saying that it is going to be easy to make changes in your home. It may be difficult enough for you to separate yourself from technology. However, this is crucial! Your teen needs rules and limits or her cell phone will consume her. She will be up at 2:00 in the morning texting with a friend, arguing with a boyfriend, or feeling upset because she was left out at an after school gathering that was posted on social media. If you don’t set rules and limits, your son will be up at 2:00 in the morning playing Fortnite or COD while half of his homework still isn’t completed.
Teens may kick and scream at first if any changes are implemented at home. However, over time, this will become the new norm. I also suggest replacing technology use with fun activities. Take your kids snowboarding, fishing, or horseback riding. Get them involved in an after school activity or offer them guitar lessons. Connect them with a competitive sport, community service initiative, or job. These sorts of options will improve your child’s self-esteem, confidence level, and will also produce true connection for them with other kids. Whatever rules and limits you set, make sure to model this behavior as it can also be valuable for you!
I hope all of you enjoyed the long, Memorial Day weekend! It is hard to believe summer is almost here already. Enjoy the weather, try to make time to be outside, take a break from technology, and check back soon for our next blog!