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Feel Like Your Family Needs a Digital Detox? Here’s How to Do It

Graphics by: Aryana Johnson
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson

We’re constantly surrounded by screens. Between work emails, social media scrolling, kids glued to their tablets, and the endless background noise of the television, the continuous digital buzz can feel like a lot. Not only can it make you feel overwhelmed, but it can also make you feel disconnected from your family and yourself. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, it might be time for a break. Enter the digital detox.

A digital detox is a temporary break from technology with the objective of reconnecting with yourself and your loved ones while rediscovering the joy of life offline. And the benefits are significant. Less screen time can lead to improved sleep, reduced stress, increased creativity, and better communication, all while strengthening family bonds and creating lasting memories. If this sounds both tempting and terrifying, don’t worry. It’s easier than you think.

To make a digital detox feel meaningful, you have to do it in a way that works for your family and helps you achieve your goals. There are two things to keep in mind when you’re considering a digital detox: (1) make it sustainable, and (2) get clear on your intentions. 

Completely going cold turkey may feel impossible, so start with a tech-free night. The goal is to make it sustainable and achievable to get the results you want. And before you start, consider your reason behind a family digital detox. Is it to foster connection amongst your family, be more present for your partner and children, or cultivate creativity with the kids? Keeping your intention top of mind throughout the digital detox will remind you why you started in the first place.

Whether you want a quick refresh or a total overhaul, here are 13 suggestions for starting your family digital detox.

How to Start a Family Digital Detox

digital detox
Source: Kelly Sikkema | Pexels

1. Get everyone involved

Chances are a digital detox was your idea, not the kids. Regardless of your children’s ages, meet with your family to explain your reason behind a digital detox and discuss what you hope to get out of it. Getting everyone involved to buy in is essential to help make the process successful. You can do that by explaining what they’ll get out of it. For a 4-year-old, that can be more time to play and be creative. For a teenager, it can look like more quality time being present with their family. You know your kids best, so help them connect the dots between why you want to have a family digital detox and what the benefit is for them.

2. Determine your timeline

Discuss and decide as a family what the timeline looks like for your digital detox. Do you want to start with a weekend, then reconvene and reassess? Does starting with a week feel best to everyone? Maybe you have an event or vacation coming up that will serve as a good endpoint. This plays into making a digital detox sustainable for your family. The goal is to see the benefits a digital detox can offer, but you won’t see any benefits if you can’t stick to it. Arrive at a timeline that makes sense, then hold yourself accountable to it.

3. Set boundaries

Once you get everyone on board, it’s time to set clear boundaries around your digital detox. A few examples include making all or some meals unplugged, deleting apps from phones or tablets, turning off the Wi-Fi to limit mindless scrolling or binge-watching, or designating screen-free zones in your house. Remember, the key is to make it realistic for you and your family. If you need to start small with one screen-free meal a day versus nixing all screens from the beginning, start there.

4. Lead by example

For your kids to believe your intention behind a family digital detox, you need to walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. If you’re on your phone or computer, that gives your kids permission to be on their devices. If you want the detox to work, you need to abide by the boundaries you set for everyone, even if your intention is geared towards your kids. Children pick up on every little thing we do. If we’re screen-free and they begin seeing the benefits, they’ll believe in the process and be more likely to stick to it. Everyone in the family needs to hold themselves accountable, including ourselves.

5. Make it fun

While the premise of a digital detox is the absence of screens, that doesn’t have to equate to the absence of enjoyment. Make it fun for your family by creating a challenge. See who can read the most books or learn a new skill by a set date. Plan screen-free adventures, so you have events to look forward to, like visiting a new park or playground, attending a local event, or trying out a new spot in town. Start a new tradition of family nights once a week, like game nights, movie nights, craft nights, or reading nights. Once everyone looks up from their screens, I guarantee they’ll discover how much more life there is to live outside of the digital world.

6. Embrace the boredom

Beauty happens in boredom. Creativity blossoms and ideas bloom when they have space to flourish. It may not feel like it when you immediately start, but the longer you go without screens, the more your imagination will thrive. Use the boredom to try new things, engage in screen-free play, like painting or writing, and see what comes from the time of unstructured play. This space will benefit your kids and their imagination and your creativity and ability to connect with yourself and your loved ones.

Bonus Tips for a Successful Family Digital Detox

family digital detox
Source: August de Richelieu | Pexels

7. Track your progress

Turn your digital detox into something tangible with an accountability board or a challenge board to track your progress for everyone to see.

8. Get outdoors

There is an entire world outside of screens. Have a picnic at the park, go camping, try a new walking trail, or explore your own backyard.

9. Play with your kids

A digital detox will encourage your kids to engage in unstructured play, so get down on the floor and play with them! Build a fort, make a craft, create a meal, or use your imagination together as a family.

10. Connect with others

Less screen time means more time to connect with your friends and extended family. Make plans to meet up with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

11. Be flexible

The benefits of a digital detox don’t happen overnight. Be kind to yourself and your family about what a realistic digital detox looks like, and be willing to flex your plans if needed.

12. Pay attention to how you feel

Once you’ve had time to engage in a digital detox, take note of how you feel and how your kids’ behaviors have changed. Are you more relaxed, more present, or more connected?

13. Celebrate your progress

Acknowledge your accomplishments as a family. Did you make it a week without phones at dinner? That’s cause for celebration! There are always little wins to recognize.

Remember, a digital detox isn’t about deprivation. It’s about creating an intentional space for your family to connect and foster meaningful experiences. Start small, adjust to fit your family’s needs, and most importantly, have fun! I bet you’ll be surprised at how much joy you discover when you unplug and focus on what truly matters: family.

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