Why It’s Good For Your Family to Unplug

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In most Filipino homes, it’s not unusual to see every family member in front of some kind of screen. The little ones could be watching their favorite animated feature. The teens are probably on their social media networks while mom is doing a bit of shopping online and dad is checking out the scores in the latest basketball playoffs. Yes, they’re all together under one roof, but are they really together? While technology has made everyday tasks more convenient, too much of it may not exactly be good for you and your family. According to one study, teens who spend too much online, munching away in front of their monitors, are more likely to gain excess weight compared to their more active peers. It doesn’t help moms and dads who constantly check their mailbox even after work hours either. Not only do they miss out on opportunities to be present for their children, they also get unnecessarily stressed. Even if they’re supposed to be relaxing after a long day at the office, they end up worrying about tasks they need to do for the next day.

This is why some families have taken the concept of “unplugging” to heart.

Jinggoy Buensuceso, husband of Mutya Laxa Buensuceso, inspecting a dragonfly with their daughter Mayumi

Cheryl Roldan's son Santiago with his flower art

Miko Roldan, Cheryl's husband, shooting hoops with their son Fonsie

Cheryl Ramos-Roldan, a mom of two, preschool owner/administrator, and volunteer missionary, says unplugging allows us to be more connected to real people and real experiences. She says, “I love technology and how it has made our world smaller but we cannot ignore the people around us, especially our family. Sure it’s great to catch up with your best friend who lives in Toronto but your three-year-old child is just in the other room, watching Disney Junior all by herself.”

Mutya Laxa Buensuceso, mom of two, country manager of Lux Asia Philippines, and wife of artist Jinggoy Buensuceso, feels the same way. She explains, “As we are in the formative years of our children, Jinggoy and I are deliberate in limiting and delaying their exposure to TV, gadgets, and social media. Our focus for now is how to stir their imagination and appreciation of the natural world around them.”

By doing away with technology, we also free ourselves from all the drama that sometimes goes with it. Social media is sometimes littered with rants, conflicts, and negative vibes. Cheryl says, “It will be good for mothers like us to step away from nonsense conflicts and concentrate on becoming better women instead.”

Plus, unplugging also gives your over-used fingers, neck, and back a break. “Being a preschool owner, I have noticed children’s fingers and pencil-grips are getting weaker,” says Cheryl.

She adds, “Swiping motions don’t really promote good fine motor strength. Writing is becoming more frustrating lately because the children have been used to typing on their gadgets. The children’s head and neck posture is also affected by frequent tablet use. For parents, twitching eyes, carpal-tunnel syndrome, and headaches are often caused by too much screen time.”

Unplugging means having more time to pursue other interests. In the case of Fonsie, it's music.

Cheryl and Santiago chilling out at the water park

The Buensucesos try their hand at gardening

Swimming with the kids

So how do you and your family unplug? Here are some suggestions:

Make a plan. If your family is a heavy technology user, unplugging may not be that easy, so you’ve got to do it slowly. Cheryl says, “My youngest son was diagnosed with Sensory-Processing Disorder and we were ordered by our developmental pediatrician to cut our children’s screen time.” Start by cutting down screen time by an hour every day for a week. The week after, cut it down by an hour and a half, and so on and so forth. At Cheryl’s home, all gadgets are off by 8PM. On holidays and weekends, there is a no-screen rule until 1PM.

Engage the kids in fun learning activities. Mutya says, “After school and on weekends, our activities range from drawing with the use of different objects like charcoal for instance, watching insects, gardening, riding the scooter, taking care of dogs, storytelling, singing, dancing, riding horses, and watching the stars.”

Enlist the commitment of all the members of household, Mutya adds. Sometimes, after all, turning on the television is easier than doing artwork with kids.

Rediscover the great outdoors. Liza Crespo, a mom of two, architect, and advocate of sustainable architecture, takes her kids on weekend trips to rediscover nature. Sometimes, they'd go camping in their farm in Batangas, telling stories over bonfires and sleeping under the stars. Other times, they’d go to their beach house in Batangas to do a bit of snorkeling and swimming. There is one important rule for these weekend sorties though: “The kids have to leave their electronic devices at home.” In this way, she says, “They learn to appreciate the scenery and learn the art of meaningful conversation. Once at our destination, they spend time outdoors and try to be active. They swim, climb trees, play with kids their age.”

Stop getting new apps. Cheryl shares, “We only kept three games each child and stopped buying new apps. A lot of parents in my preschool complain that it’s hard to keep the gadgets away from their kids since they’re so addicted to it already. I tell them to just stop downloading new apps. No matter how smart the kids are nowadays, they are not supposed to know our Apple or Android account passwords. They won’t be able to download additional games without it.”

Unplug yourself. “If you want your kids to reduce screen time, you have to do it yourself first. Remember, kids do what they see not what they hear,” says Cheryl. Mutya adds, “Jinggoy and I ensure that quality bonding happens on weekends where we are deliberate as well in detaching from work and electronics and challenge ourselves in coming up with new things to do or places to discover with our children.”

The boys hit the water

Santiago makes a dunk

Biking on tightrope