“Smartphone-free days”: An aid to rediscovering familial harmony
We at Family and media often propose analyses, research done on
the media, on the world of communications in general, and on the family.
We like to report data with context, so as to offer tools for discerning,
interpreting, and building better relationships with others (especially
within the family), while also taking into account our use of technology.
Now, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to present you the results of study that
could easily be in any home (which, being part of a family and the mother
of two very young children, has been quite applicable). My husband––who
knows about as much about communication as a volleyball player on a soccer
field––came up with a proposal, which helped us greatly, and I thought it
might help you too….
If a phone call is the only way to get out of the house
These days, we are mostly staying indoors. I don’t even know why I have to
repeat it! We all know that there is a pandemic going on, and that it isn’t
allowed (or at least not recommended) to see very many people, except if
Let me preface this by saying that we are a very active family, who before
the pandemic loved to leave the house, take walks, even simply visit a
nativity scene at Christmas time or go to a fair.
Like everyone else, we suddenly found ourselves stuck within the four walls
of our home, far from family and friends, with our only means of seeing
people being through our cell phones.
Technology: A means of uniting and dividing
As we have many relationships that matter to us, it’s a given that we might
use technology a little more these days. It is the only way to keep in
touch with people we cannot meet in the flesh right now.
We prefer face-to-face, being physically together, but in order to make the
most of the circumstances while waiting for life to go back to normal, why
not take advantage of the benefits that modern media offer us?
However, as time went by and the health crisis continued, we realized that
many of the days we spent on Christmas holiday as a family meant that we
were ‘far away’ from each other and ‘close to’ others.
We realized that we were getting too absorbed in our cell phones. So one
Sunday morning, my husband got up and said, “Why don’t we have the first
smartphone-free day?” and laid out the rules of the game for me…
Smartphone-free days should not be seen as a time of exclusion from the
rest of the world, but rather as an opportunity to spend quality time with
Phones are not silenced or switched off for the whole day (in case of
emergency or if someone needs something), but the internet data is switched
off, leaving only the ringer on instead (“If someone really needs to talk
to us they will call!”).
You look at your messages or social media for about 15 minutes as soon as
you wake up, another 15 minutes at noon, and then you pick up the phone
again around 7 p.m.
One is not completely estranged from one’s contacts, but one uses one’s
mobile phone in a very controlled manner, at set times.
The benefits of cell-free days…
At the end of the first smartphone-free day, we took stock and realized
– On a phone-free day, household chores are finished much quicker.
– We don’t get bored, on the contrary, we are more creatively stimulated.
– We are more focused on the children (on questions, games, the progress
they are making at school, and in their activities).
– We are more inclined to think of new topics of conversation.
– And…we laugh more.
If you are going through a crisis, if you feel tired, nervous, or bored,
try to plan a smartphone-free day at your home too: you might be pleasantly