Unplug & Recharge//

I Forced My Kids to Give Up Their Phones at Dinner, and Here’s What Happened

Setting boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

 Courtesy of Andrii Yalanskyi/Getty Images 

At work I am the Chief Revenue Officer for Thrive Global. At home, I am the Chief Mom Officer, trying to do my best, but not always perfect… especially when it comes to detaching from technology. However, I do believe as a parent it’s essential to be a good role model, particularly for me as a working mom. My business and career has been built on media and technology. Technology has become central to my life and I really value it — but like many of us, I have seen the impact it is having on so many aspects of our daily lives regardless of our jobs, generations and passions. So since joining Thrive Global, I am trying to make incremental small changes to how I live my life, and my goal is to share some of these changes with my children.

At Thrive Global, our solutions help people understand how being always-on isn’t always necessary if you want to be successful at work or at home. We teach people about changing habits and behaviors through microsteps. Microsteps are small, science-backed behavior changes that you can easily incorporate into your life for greater well-being. They can help you move from knowing what to do to actually doing it, and build sustainable habits that can have dramatic, long-term effects.

My Microstep: Together with my kids, spend less time on our phones!

Sounds easy, right? I feel I do a fairly good job of limiting video games (my rule is no video games during the week) but I struggle with limiting their time on their phones. I find that when I’m alone with them, it is easier to ask them to switch off their phones, but then when they are around friends, I have noticed that it becomes their way of socializing. So this weekend, I made a bold move. I threw out a challenge to my son and his friends.

Picture the scene: a table of 12 teenagers, mixed girls and boys, all 15 or 16 year olds at dinner after playing their fourth day of a five-day national tennis tournament. Any tennis tournament is grueling, and if you have a child who plays sports, no matter what sport, you know that all they want to do at the end of the day is either collapse in bed, or maybe, talk to their friends, but nowadays that usually includes the phone — and in particular Instagram or Snapchat!

“Hey team, how about we all put our phones down for dinner and try talking the old-fashioned way?” I asked them. Surprisingly there was little pushback. Perhaps they groaned a little at first, but eventually, one by one, they surrendered their phones to form a rather large stack on the table. My son took the time to make sure they wouldn’t topple based on the various sizes and cases. It was magical! They all started talking to one another, and laughter ensued.

Then this happened: “Mom, now it’s the parents’ turn to put down their phones!” So dutifully, we all placed our phones next to those of the kids. The end of the meal came and the kids didn’t jump to look at their phones, which was nice. Instead, they all got up and continued chatting to each other. I am positive that this will become a regular practice for my family, and am hopeful that the other parents and their families will do this again when it’s time to go out for a meal. We all have to start somewhere and little things like this can go a long way.

At this particular tennis tournament, we bonded as a team — both kids and parents. Putting our phones down for meals definitely helped with that.

And as for me, I hope to continue to be a role model for my children, whether it’s setting a good example for our relationship with technology or as a working mom.

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