The Best 2 Hours of the Day

During a normal work week, I get home around 5:30 and I put my son down for bed around 7:30. That means I have a maximum of 2 hours per day to foster one of the most important relationships I have. It also means that I have a whopping 22  hours a day to check email, facebook, twitter, read, sleep, etc.

Even though I have “all day” to check email and just two hours with my family, it’s hard for me to turn work off when I get home. I often find myself reaching for the phone in my pocket, believing that the world out there is somehow more important than the world right in front of me.

So for that window, I’ve decided to just pack up my devices where I can’t get to them. When I pull in the driveway, I leave my computer in my car or in the laundry room that sits between our garage and family room. I also like to leave my phone in there as well, although I keep it if I know I’ll be taking my son on a walk or doing something where I might truly need it.

Creating Space for Community

At a recent tech conference, I heard of a family that does something like this but with all of their kids [HT: Lars Rood]. The parents used to tell the kids “no computer during family time from 6-8pm.” But the kids would do it anyway.

Their excuse? Dad does work some times in the evening and mom talks on the phone to her friends, so why can’t we?

In response, the parents created a special family basket and asked everyone put their most tempting electronic devices in for a few hours each evening. Dad put his work laptop in, mom put in her Kindle, and the kids dropped off their cell phones. Instead of just mandating rules, the parents decided to  model how they wanted their family to operate. And instead of focusing on how to limit technology, they focused on opening up a space for conversation, games, and meals.

At any time, the parents and kids can look over at the basket and see what’s there and what’s not and hold family members accountable to it. As a bonus, the basket serves as a powerful physical reminder that the entire Internet and all its wonder can be relegated to a few inanimate devices in a trash can.

Being Practical

As always, every family is different and this might not work for everyone. You might be a doctor or someone really important like Ashton Kutcher who needs to be on all the time. Homework, grading, emergencies and so on will also occasioanlly break the rules. But I still think the idea is a wonderful practice even if it’s just a few nights per week, and I hope that as my children grow older my wife and I can implement something similar and model togetherness, physical presence, and the fullness of community.

Do have any tips for using (or not using) technology in community?

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