Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Summer Fun

How to Be More Present With Your Family This 4th of July

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article


Remember when the 4th of July meant long picnic tables, paper plates, baked beans and watermelon? All the good fixings of a family potluck or barbecue, and a day in the warm summer air? Now it seems like most summer holidays, or most any holidays, the kids are glued to their phones and you left your mind at the office.

Some days it feels like it would be nice to get technology out of our kids’ hands once and for all. But that will probably never happen. So, it’s better that we help them learn to manage their devices in a way that’s healthy and safe. Then hopefully everyone can get some fresh air and sunshine this Independence Day.

Here are a few tips to consider to help mitigate the technological element in your children’s lives so that you can be more present with each other this holiday.

Have the Tech Talk With Your Kids

This should be a periodic thing. Even if you’ve already talked to your brood about the appropriate use of technology, their interactions with tech and the hazards presented by it will change as they develop.

Take some time to listen. Ask them where they’re at with the whole social media jam. What apps do they like most, and why? How much time do most of their friends spend on their phones every day? Do they ever make friends online first that they later meet in person?

This is a good opportunity to check in on their social media usage, but it’s also a way to open a conversation where you can listen and let your child talk. Sometimes the topic is just the catalyst to another conversation, or some deeper bonding that needs to happen.

If you feel you need to set some new boundaries for screen time, or what’s appropriate online content, let your kids have a say in the new rules. In fact, if you empower them to make the rules, you might be surprised at how well they govern themselves.

Use Social Apps That Bring the Family Together

While coming together usually means putting a cap on screen time, it doesn’t have to. Even though there’s no substitute for real world interactions and bonding, that doesn’t mean you can’t also use tech to facilitate memories.

But kids don’t like Facebook. And Facebook wasn’t made with families in mind. Think about getting the family on a platform like Capsure instead, where you can share moments in private and keep age-appropriate content for the younger ones. You can also use Capsure to build a treasure trove of 4th of July pics with your family. You can come back and mine them later for digital scrapbooking, and you can feel secure that all the pictures of your kids are private and only viewable by your family and selected friends.

A private social media platform like this one has obvious benefits above and beyond family life. I mean, haven’t we all been waiting for a social tool that won’t get us in trouble with our bosses? But for now, it also means you can keep the grownup talk amongst the grownups, and share the kid moments with the kids.

Play a Game of Stack of Apples

Remember the phone stacking game? It’s still a great idea, and it works. I call it Stack of Apples, and the consequence of being the one to give in and check your phone is that you get to do the dishes!

This works great for parties and barbecues, as well as dinners. So, for key moments during your 4th of July festivities, make sure the phones are off and face down. When the moment’s over, no need to be a tyrant about it. Let everyone get back to their social networking. Remember, the pictures your kids are snapping are making memories for you, too.

Keeping relationships with your kids healthy can be hard. And keeping healthy relationships with technology in the midst of that makes things even more complicated. But it helps to remember that the reason we use social media is the same reason we have summer barbecues together as a family. Because we want to feel a sense of belonging and support from people who love us.

So, if you’re giving that sense of belonging, love and support to your kids, you’re doing it right. Don’t worry too much about the details of their technology use. Update the ground rules, let them specify the details that they think are fair, and just make sure that you’re all enjoying life together, as a family. Happy 4th of July!

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.