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Family Accountability

Tips for a Screen-Free Holiday

by Ali Royann

Dear Ali,
I don’t want to have to fight for my family’s attention this Thanksgiving. I’d like to have a screen-free holiday. . . . How can I get everyone excited about the idea?

Preparing for the Best

Dear Preparing,

Holidays are a great time to practice being screen-free for the day! Cell phones tend to divert attention from what’s happening around us. The mere presence of a phone suggests the potential for a new post, text, or email which affects the quality of the conversation around us.

Cell phones tend to divert attention from what’s happening around us.

Some of the most meaningful conversations can happen around the dinner table. But sadly, studies suggest that one in three Americans can’t get through an entire meal without being on their phone! Technology keeps us connected with those outside our home, but it often comes at the cost of being disconnected from people within the same room.

As you send out invites to those who will be joining you, or if you’re planning the day with just your family, promote the idea of putting away phones so it doesn’t come as a surprise. This way you can avoid unhappy and resentful attitudes by preparing people ahead of time. You want your day to be fun, so it’s best to keep the tone of your request light-hearted.

Plan an activity that everyone can be involved in.

Designate a photographer for the day, or buy disposable cameras to pass around. By pulling out your phone to take a picture, the temptation to check email, posts, or updates can draw you away from the conversation and happenings around you. Pictures can then be shared at a later date, or create mini scrapbooks or photo albums as gifts for your guests to enjoy.

Plan an activity that everyone can be involved in. If the weather is nice, have a football or basketball game in the backyard with chairs set up so everyone can participate by playing or cheerleading from the sidelines. For indoor fun, set up tables with games, crafts, and coloring areas for the smaller kids.

Focus on each other and remove the distractions!

If you have football fans who are looking forward to the big game, suggest the idea of a day without hand-held devices, which will still allow people to enjoy football or parades that may be broadcast.

Just putting away your phones will really help everyone to enjoy one another’s presence and engage in meaningful conversation. Focus on each other and remove the distractions! There is so much to be thankful for. Make each moment matter!

Happy Thanksgiving,

“Ask Ali” is an op-ed column answering common questions about accountability and related topics.

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