7 Ways to Boost the Love and Balance the Tech in Your Family

What if the most valuable gift you could give your sweetheart — or your family — cost you absolutely nothing? What if Valentine’s Day was less about candy and teddy bears and more about giving your undivided attention (minus your device) to the people in front of you?

When it comes to technology use, our relationships are taking a hit, if you ask the more than 13,000 adults who participated in McAfee’s recent survey, “Connected Relationships.”

What is our tech use costing us? A lot according to 40% of survey respondents who felt their significant other paid more attention to their device when they were together. Another 33% said they’ve had to compete with their date’s device for attention on a first date.

The struggle—and the rift—is real: 45% respondents said they got into an argument with a friend, significant other, or family member over being on a device in another’s presence. Surprisingly, that same amount (45%) admitted they don’t set rules about device usage when together.

We love our technology. We also love our people. So how do we balance the two? Establishing a few ground rules is a great start to closing that 45% no-device-rules gap revealed in the survey. While ground rules will vary with couples and families, communicating expectations around devices will help boost the love in any relationship.

7 Ways to Balance Love and Tech

  1. Examine your priorities. Make sure you understand (and believe) that the people in your life are far more valuable than your technology. If you don’t believe that to be true, any changes you attempt to make won’t likely stick. Further, you may have a technology addiction that needs attention. Hopefully, if your tech has edged out your loved ones, you can see it and are ready to make some changes.
  1. Practice being present. Being present in a wired world is a choice we have to make every minute of every day. Paying attention to the moment and the people in it requires physical, mental, and emotional effort. Being present requires you to: 1) put away your phone, face, and make eye contact with the person speaking 2) focus on the speaker, turn off the random chatter in your head, and ignore visual distractions 3) actively listen and engage with the person speaking; nod and affirm the thoughts they express.
  1. Establish ‘No Phone Zones.’ If you want to know what a person loves, observe their actions, not their words. Nothing says, “I love you,” more than putting your phone away and giving someone your full attention. This practice becomes easier with No Phone Zones. No Phone Zones might include the dinner table, movie night, restaurants, or road trips.
  2. Turn off alerts. We can and do take our smart phones everywhere, but that doesn’t mean we should use them Eliminate potential distractions (and exercise huge respect) by turning off alerts that tempt you to check email, social media, or text messages when you are with others.
  1. Delay post gratification. The instant gratification of posting photos or live video on social media can be fun and affirming. However, it does little for the people around you. Try to forgo the need to edit, post, and write that caption and instead, fully experience the moment with your loved ones. You can post that picture or video tomorrow. No doubt, you will find that getting “likes” and comments IRL (In Real Life) is far more satisfying than the digital kind.
  1. Do unto others. Think about what annoys you then stop doing it. Do you enjoy listening to others talk on the phone while shopping or riding the bus? Do you enjoy hearing about a text war unfolding at a party? Do you enjoy someone stopping to research something online in the middle of a conversation? According to a Pew Institute study on mobile etiquette, Americans view cell phones as distracting and annoying when used in social settings, and 82% say it frequently or occasionally hurts the conversation.
  1. Stop making excuses. Defensiveness and denial can be our response if someone calls our phone use into question. However, if you really are serious about improving your relationships, you’ll stop making excuses. Rules for living well in a wired world are always evolving, and no one does it perfectly — no one. So just commit to making a few adjustments and start moving forward. With a few small changes, you’ll see your relationships gain some critical momentum. And who among us couldn’t use a few more helpings of love in their life? You’ve got this!

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Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).

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