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Stay Connected in Healthy Ways by Johanna Hicks

Technology brings many benefits to our lives.  However, excessive screen time can create a flat, one-dimensional existence.  While technology is great for some types of communication, it is no substitute for real-world, face-to-face connection.

You have probably heard the question, “Do you control your devices or are they starting to control you?”  In a culture where everyone seems more “connected” than ever, how can we nurture real connection with those who are most important to us?  We can learn to replace negative technology habits with healthy patterns:

  • Disconnect to Connect:   The goal here is not just less screen time, but more real time!  Choose “tech-free zones” where the family agrees to put away devices in order to enhance real-life connection.

Mealtime is a great place to start!  Include the table at home and in restaurants so that every mealtime can foster face-to-face conversation.

Drive time is another good “tech-free zone”.  Rather than everyone retreating into his or her device, use the travel time to connect, pray for the day ahead or simply talk about the high and low points during the day.  And of course, please don’t text and drive!  Many car crashes can be attributed to texting and driving.

Date time should be a time to give your spouse or significant other undivided attention.  It’s ok if you need to check your phone to be sure the sitter is not trying to reach you, but then put it away to continue enjoying time together.

  • Deepen Internal Values:  Setting external boundaries is easy, but if is just as important, or even more so, to set internal values that act as a compass to guide you and your family when navigating technology decisions.

Model it.  The old saying “more is caught than taught” applies here.  Start by evaluating your own technology choices.

Discuss it by using everyday situations to discuss your beliefs and values with your family.  For example, if you are searching YouTube together and inappropriate content pops up. Stop and talk about why we should protect our eyes and minds.  On the positive side, share an encouraging text or post that you have seen to prompt a conversation about using technology in an appropriate manner.

  • Develop External Boundaries:  We can do a lot to protect ourselves, as well as family and friends, from some of the temptations associated with technology.  Parents have the greatest level of responsibility to set guardrails for their children that will help support and protect them as they use these powerful, but potentially dangerous devices.

Learn the Device – get to know the good and the bad about your devices before activating them.  Learn to set restrictions by taking advantage of built-in safeguards.

Set rules – each person should be accountable and committed.

Find helps, such as (mobile web filtering), Parent TimeLock App, Kaboom App, and resources such as

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screens in kids’ rooms including televisions, video games and mobile devices?  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the AAP also recommend no more than 2 hours of screen time for children over the age of 2 and no screen time for children under the age of 2.

A study by the AAP showed that the average 8 to 10 year-old spends nearly 8 hours per day on media, and teens spend more than 11 hours per day.  As of March, 2013, over 78% of teens have a device and over 97% of children/teens have access to and use the internet, according to Pew Research Internet reports.  Focus on the Family reports that the average age a child is introduced to pornography has dropped to 8 years old!  Now that’s scary!

So what can we do to foster the disconnect?  Choose from the following activities:  Read a book; play a game; cook together; ride bikes; do a puzzle (one of my favorite activities!); blow bubbles (you’re never too old!); plant a garden; go bowling; go camping; build a fort with sheets & blankets; fly a kite; write a letter to family or friend far away; visit a museum or sporting event; create art with sidewalk chalk; bake cookies and take to a neighbor; redecorate something in your home; visit the park; volunteer to serve together; cook outdoors; or come up with some other great ideas.

Yes, technology can be useful, but remember to disconnect for healthy connections!  (Thanks to First Baptist Church for the great resources shared in this column.)


Dairy Recipe Contest

Whew, I can sense the aroma now!  Hopkins County has some marvelous cooks, and now is the time to pull out your favorite recipe!  The 2015 Dairy Festival Recipe Contest is rapidly approaching, and we want YOU!

This contest is open to all Hopkins County residents.  There is an age division for everyone.  For more information, contact our office at 903-885-3443, or drop by 1200-B W. Houston, Sulphur Springs.  You may also find the guidelines and entry form at  Written entries are due June 15, and the actual contest will be June 20.


Closing Thought

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities – J.K. Rowling



Johanna Hicks

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Family & Consumer Sciences

1200-B W. Houston

P.O.Box 518

Sulphur springs, TX 75483

903-885-3443 – phone

903-439-4909 – Fax

[email protected]

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