We love having our cell phones and other gadgets within reach. So do the kids we've allowed to have a smartphone. But staying in constant contact with everyone else, playing those addictive game apps and updating our social media accounts on the hour is stealing valuable time away from family. Institute a gadget-free zone that applies to kids and adults in these areas:
At the Family Table
Don't be tweeting when you should be eating.
Everyone's smartphones, tablets, laptops and other gadgets should be parked far away from the table, even muted, during mealtime.
The importance of family meals gets lost when fingers are holding a phone instead of a fork. The texts, phone calls and games can wait.
Some schools allow cell phones and other gadgets on the property, which can be a great comfort to many parents. But check with your child's school to see what the exact policy is.
You don't want your child texting in the bathroom when she's supposed to be in class. Make sure the school is aware she has a phone and follow the policies, without exception, to teach your child responsible smartphone use.
At the Doctor's Office
Technology has given us a luxury we didn't have before. It allows us to give our kids something to captivate them while we wait for our appointment.
Instead of shoving a phone or tablet in your child's face just to keep him quiet, plan ahead so you can use your wait as quality one-on-one time.
For younger kids, pack some coloring books and crayons and color with your children. For older children, take a book and read together. Even bring some travel board games just to mix things up. Kids will follow your lead so make the most of this downtime.
In Their Homework Space
Your child's homework space should be for homework and that's it.
Even if your child protests that she can't get her work done without listening to the music from her phone, find an alternate way to get her some tunes so incoming texts and social media alerts don't interrupt her study time.
Your child's homework space should have no distractions. That includes not having a TV too.
In Their Bedroom
Leave the gadgets, including the phone, out of their bedroom. Let her room be for studying and sleeping.
When you were deciding to get your child a smartphone you probably laid out all of these rules in your head and maybe even on paper on how you would monitor your child's smartphone activity. Keeping an eye on your kids to make sure they're not getting bullied or wasting time when they're supposed to be doing something else is a lot easier if they're not locked in their room with their gadgets.
At Practice and Games
A recent study shows kids think their parents are distracted. How many kids' sporting events have you been to and seen parents texting away or simply staring at their phones?
Give your kids your full attention at games and practices. Cheer them on, embarrass them with your noise, show them you're watching and that you care more about looking at them than reading the latest posts on your Facebook timeline.
In the Car
Of course using your phone while driving is dangerous and illegal in some states. Put your phone away and show your kids that using your gadgets behind the wheel isn't acceptable.
Go further than that and make the car a gadget-free zone for your kids too. Get them in the habit now of packing away that technology when they get in the car so it will be second nature to them by the time they begin driving.
Road trips. Quick snapshots uploaded to social media. A check of your voicemail.
What seems like mini snippets of time can really add up on a one-week vacation. Encourage the whole family to put their phones away during vacation. Relax, unwind and have fun without any gadgets in your hand. You can recharge without worrying about having to charge your gadgets.