Taking Control of Your Digital Life

Part 3 in the series on becoming “tech-wise”

The first two posts in this series laid down a philosophical framework for why we need to take control of our digital devices. Now, let’s dig into the nitty-gritty details. The following is a list of strategies, tools, and thoughts to consider as you use your electronic devices. Try some of these things this week and see what works for you. Then try some more.

Physical Environment

  1. Reduce the number of devices that you use daily and have a philosophy of use for each one. Put certain apps on each device, and intentionally delete (or at least hide) all the extras.
  2. Don’t keep your phone on your body all day long. Give yourself some physical space for extended periods of time.
  3. Reduce the number of TVs and computers in your places, and don’t make them the focal point of any room where you spend a lot of time. Hide the screens as much as you can.
  4. Use paper and pen more. A paperless life is not an ideal life.
  5. Make sure you have tech-free zones and times in your home, in your office, and in your car.
  6. Put your tech to bed early. Put your phone, tablet, laptop in the kitchen every night for charging. Don’t bring it into the bedroom. Parents may need to keep children’s devices in their bedroom, since some kids will sneak their phone at night.
  7. Practice sabbaths from technology use: weekly, daily, hourly. Give your brain a break from the screens regularly. There should be a rhythm to our interaction with technology. There should be a rhythm of work, rest, and play to each day, week, and year.

Attention / Focus

  1. “Be where your feet are.” Don’t let tech take your attention away. Be aware of the people around you who may feel that you are purposefully ignoring them when you reach for a screen.
  2. Get bored. Use your tech tools to add wisdom, not to avoid boredom. Wisdom is often found in the boring places; after all, our clearest thoughts are often in the shower.
  3. Turn OFF the devices for a short time to complete a project or have a lengthy discussion or to meditate… use the OFF button daily. Or give your phone to someone to keep for you while you focus (or drive), so they can alert you to something.
  4. Resist the urge to check your phone at dinners or parties with guests. Leave it in the purse, car, or in a pile with other phones and keys. Parents who host teens at their house can collect all phones in a basket at the door.
  5. Use the auto-reply (out-of-the-office) feature on your email program to create a large window of focus (half day or more).
  6. Check email at set specific times each day, rather than constantly.
  7. Try the Freedom app to maximize your focus during work or during school sessions.

TV / Computers

  1. Don’t have a TV in your bedroom or in the busiest parts of your house. Put it in the basement or in a den that is not constantly in use. The TV should act a theater, not a constant companion.
  2. Kids should not have any screens in their bedroom. Seriously. This is more important than it seems.
  3. Video games should be monitored and limited as much as possible, and avoid them late at night. Seriously. Games are now hyper-stimulating and addictive.
  4. Monitor and limit the internet access in your home. Use a product like Circle to do so. Or unplug the wi-fi router at a certain time at night or on certain days.
  5. Make sure that everyone in the house is aware that internet traffic can be monitored.

Smartphones

  1. The best uses of a smartphone are quick, useful, and valuable: texting, email, weather, camera. Avoid the temptation to scroll, scroll, scroll on the internet or social media.
  2. Worst uses of a smartphone are time-devouring: social media, games, YouTube videos, etc. Keep yourself from getting sucked into those vortexes.
  3. Remove all addictive apps from your smartphone. These are apps that you tend to use too much – typically the social media apps. They are too alluring to have at your fingertips all the time. So use them on your computer only, if at all. And use them less and less.
  4. Put only a few apps on your home screen. Put all the others in folders on the second screen.
  5. Disable all notifications, except the ones you absolutely must have.
  6. Delay giving your kids smartphones as long as possible. Make it a 15 year-old birthday present. Wait until 8th grade. A pay-as-you-go flip phone is a much better idea for kids under

Laptops / Desktop Computers

  1. Disable Autoplay of videos on YouTube and also  Disable Autoplay for all online videos. These programs run as extensions within your browser.
  2. Use the Distraction Free extension for YouTube to get rid of all the ads and click-bait on YouTube.
  3. Disable the news feed on Facebook with News Feed Eradicator.
  4. Install Ad Blockers on your browser, like AdBlock Plus and AdRemover.
  5. Use Ghostery or other anti-tracking extensions.

Social Media

  1. On social media, increase your connection to real people and avoid following celebrities. Again, wisdom and connection is the goal, not addictive entertainment.
  2. Keep young kids and young teens away from social media. Delay it as long as possible. 15 is a good time to start, but with limits and with transparency. Let kids be kids, which means keep them off social media. When the time comes, connect with them on social media, so you have a clue what is going on. Seriously, stay away from Snapchat, especially; the negatives for kids far outweigh the positives.
  3. Remember that social media is a highlight reel. You are not seeing the real life of people. You are only seeing their best pics, thoughts, and witty comments. So, be careful not to compare your lowlights to everyone else’s highlights online

 

Clearly, this is not a comprehensive list, but surely it offers at least a few things that can help you gain a bit more control over your digital life. and surely you can use something here to help a child or a teenager in your life.

If you have any other tips, please leave them in the comment section below, or email me at andy@growingupwell.org.

 

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For a more comprehensive plan for managing the digital family life, I give the highest recommend of the book The Tech-Wise Family, By Andy Crouch.

 

 

Author: Andy Kerckhoff

I'm a husband, father, teacher. I'm doing my best, wishing I could do better, and trying to help others to effectively lead kids through early adolescence.

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