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How to Have a Device-Free(ish) Holiday (Yes, Parents Included)
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  • What's topping your kids' holiday wish lists this year? Chances are it has a screen, Internet access, and games. With a little planning — and kids' assistance — you can balance your family's tech activities with much-needed face time. Here's how:

    Be jolly — but firm

    Let your kids know that you'll be enforcing stricter time limits to create more quality family time. And tell them that the rules will apply to the grown-ups as well. Use your phone's built-in features (Screen Time in iOS 12 and Digital Wellbeing in Android Pie) to determine how much time you're spending online and which apps you use the most — and pare back where you can.

    Make a list (and check it with your kids)

    Don't go cold turkey. Schedule some daily tech time for yourself and your kids. Get their input on which devices they absolutely can't live without, and allow some limited use. If their apps have settings that help curb use, such as the ones on Tik Tok, YouTube, and Snapchat — then by all means, enable them. 

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    Plan a device-free dinner

    Put the phones and tablets in a basket, and don't check 'em til the dishes are done.

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    Have a download derby

    Browse the app store together. Look for games and activities that the whole family can enjoy, such as the ones on our best app lists.

    Make setup fun, not frustrating

    No matter how easy to use companies make new devices, there's always some (often frustrating) setup time. Truth be told, kids often figure out thorny tech glitches faster than parents, so involve your kids in the process.

    Use that time to discuss responsible use of the new device

    Try some tech togetherness. Unplugging for its own sake isn't the point. Family time is. Plan a night of video games, movies, or maybe preselected YouTube videos that you can all enjoy together.

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    Combine on- and offline activities

    Document your family memories and consider compiling them into journals, cards, and scrapbooks. This is a perfect time to share your own holiday memories with your kids.

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    If no creatures are stirring…don't check your email

    Remember, your kids learn their media habits partly from you. Use quiet time to reflect on ways you can maximize the benefits of technology without letting it take over your family's life.

    Have an old-fashioned holiday

    Challenge your family to choose low- or no-tech versions of favorite activities. Generate fun on your own steam -- no WiFi, data, or plugs.

    Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out its ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org and sign up for its newsletter to read more articles like this.

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