7 Tips to Make Sure Your Smartphone Use Doesn’t Ruin Holiday Gatherings

By on Dec 07, 2019

The gravy wasn’t the only thing steaming at the Thanksgiving table this year. Grandma wasn’t happy. It turns out that those shapes that looked like socks draped over the living room furniture were actually teenagers glued to their smartphones — teenagers Grandma had repeatedly asked to set the table.

And if you knew Grandma, you knew that she just wasn’t having it.

After a very awkward silence fell across our 20-person table, Grandma gave an impassioned speech on how smartphones are destroying the family connection and turning our kids into zombies. A lively discussion ensued and three generations defended their use (or non-use) of technology.

It’s a conversation, no doubt, that lights up countless dinner tables every day.

smartphone addiction

When the dust settled, it was Grandma’s wisdom that stuck. Here are the highlights:

There’s a time and a place for everything, but we’ve lost sight of that.
Giving people your undivided attention says, “you matter.”
Phones have become center stage, not people, not experiences, not manners.
How we spend our time is how we spending our lives.
We can’t get back the hours, days, and years we spend online. 

Grandma’s sentiments must have hit a nerve even with the teenagers. The next day phones were scarce. The conversation lingered, sometimes for hours. The laughter was ever-present. What we coined “Grandma’s turkey day tantrum” added a rich layer of genuine connection to our gathering.

Chances are you can relate to this story in some way. That’s because Grandma is onto something. Studies show technology is taking center stage for a lot of us.

 

So how does your smartphone use measure up? What tech habits are negatively affecting your relationships, your health, or your attitude? What steps can you take to change them?

7 tech tips to help save your holiday

Discuss expectations ahead of time. Have a short but specific family huddle to discuss when and where devices are allowed. Technology isn’t bad — issues arise with our personal choices in the way we use technology. Establish no-phone zones and be sure adults follow the rules as well.

No more phubbing. Phubbing is snubbing the person in front of you to carry on a text conversation on your phone. Make eye contact with the person in front of you. Leave your phone in another room or turn it face down to avoid the temptation of phubbing people over the holidays.

Listen. Learn. Like. Devices are magnetic because there are endless things to look at and engage with right at our fingertips. But try this: Turn your phone off and take in the picture and the people right in front of you. There’s a story behind every face, endless things to learn, and common ground to discover in your circle of family and friends. Be the person in the room asking more in-depth questions, listening intently, and giving people your thumbs ups and “likes” IRL (in real life).

Ask before posting (especially teens). They may not vocalize it but you can bet the teenager in the room is cringing inside when you get waaaay too excited about posting a selfie with them online. That’s because they are very, very picky with the pictures they choose to post because each one impacts how they come across to their peers online. Be sure to ask parents of younger kids before you post their picture online — it can be a bigger deal than you think.

Resist tech shaming. Family gatherings can include multiple generations that hold different opinions and perspectives about technology. To keep the peace (and avoid upsetting grandma), be sure to respect differing opinions and behaviors around technology. Be careful no one is made to feel shame for his or her tech habits.

Pay attention to emotions. Just as stressful situations can trigger overeating, certain feelings can prompt us to turn to our devices in lieu of engaging with the people around us. A recent study reveals that most people could barely last four hours with family before needing a break. Instead of turning to tech to escape, consider replacing that impulse with something else. Go for a walk, get a workout in, call a friend, or take a nap.

Check-in with teens. The holidays can amplify pressure for teens to make their holiday appear “picture perfect” online. If you notice moodiness or anxiety, spend some extra time with your child. Be aware that comparing his or her looks, material possessions, and unique experiences may be affecting your child’s mood. Help your child be present in the moment rather than creating moments to post online.

The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most complicated especially when technology is added to the mix. But remember, technology can’t ruin a holiday only our choices can. Here’s wishing you a very merry holiday filled with hours of genuine connection with the ones you love.

About the Author

Toni Birdsong

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist for McAfee. She is an author, speaker, and cyber savvy mom of two teenagers (much to their dismay). As a family safety evangelist for McAfee, she focuses on online safety and often speaks to educators, parents, and teens about dodging the dangers online. She is the co-owner of ...

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