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Digital devices are so ingrained in our culture that sometimes it’s hard to remember life without them. What did we do in waiting rooms or on public transportation without smart phones? How did children survive all those family road trips without DVD players and tablets?

Too much screen time has a significant negative impact on our wellbeing, whether we realize it or not. Not only is it linked to speech delay in young children, it has been found to negatively affect quality of sleep, personal relationships, stress levels and even our physical health.

If it’s time for a digital detox in your life, follow these five rules to improve the health, happiness and wellbeing of your whole family:

Rule #1: Face time only during family time

(No, not that kind of FaceTime.) Reclaim quality time with your family by banning all handheld devices during meals, movie nights or other family outings.

Strategy: Start with collecting everyone’s devices during meal times and storing them in a designated drawer (or bag when on the go), and build up to device-free weekends and holidays. To incentivize unwilling kids, allow them to choose their favorite food or group activity. Don’t forget to wear a wristwatch!

Rule #2: Set a curfew for handheld devices

Screen time before bed is associated with poor sleep quality and quantity, so set a cutoff time for using handheld devices in your home.

Strategy: Choose a time of day that works for your family and stick to it! Invest in a traditional alarm clock for your bedroom and store your phone or tablet elsewhere at night, such as in a closet or in that designated device drawer.

Rule #3: Banish “binge-watching”

Binge-watching TV can also have adverse effects on our health, so set a limit on TV screen time.

Strategy: Encourage your family to participate in other, healthier habits like reading, exercise, or even discovering new hobbies.

Rule #4: Break up with social media

If you find yourself constantly checking social media apps in a loop, you’re not alone. Though your brain craves the reward, it actually results in more stress and anxiety in adults and young people alike. Break free of the digital dopamine cycle by designating a daily window of time for checking social media, then building up to entire social-media-free periods.

Strategy: Remove social media apps from your phone. You can still check in on your desktop or laptop computer, but it’s going to take a lot more effort!

Rule #5: What happens at work stays at work

Time spent checking email at home is time not spent interacting with your children or partner. If you can make a rule of no work communications outside working hours, great – if that’s an unreasonable goal, limit checks to a specific window of time.

Strategy: Remove all push notifications from your handheld devices and set new response time expectations for colleagues and clients.

To get the whole family on board with the digital detox, remember to:

  • Always set a good example for your children in how you interact with devices.
  • Replace screen time with even more enjoyable experiences, such as games, outdoor activities or community events.
  • Explain to your kids why you made the decision – this will help them follow through and hopefully develop their own healthy relationship with digital media.

It will be hard to give up these habits at first, but you’ll soon find a refreshing new sense of freedom!

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