Avoiding Distracted Holidays

‘Tis the season of gathering around the fireplace, attending holiday parties, enjoying lively dinners and the sounds of beeping Smartphones. Wait, what was that last one?  During the holidays, we aspire to re-create a 1950s perfect version of family gatherings. The problem is that 2015 is full of distractions that were unthinkable 60 years ago. So, how can we resolve our nostalgia with 21st century reality? Here are some tips to make the whole family happy.

1. Discuss Expectations Upfront

​Talk to your loved ones about how you would like to spend the holidays. Explain that you want to take advantage of some free time to re-connect as a family. We are all so busy with work, school, sports, clubs and varying schedules that it can be hard to get in quality time on a regular basis, so now is your chance. Ask that everyone please keep the connected devices at arm’s length. This goes not just for your kids, but for you and your spouse as well. It can be hard to ignore emails and social media on an average day, but during the holidays, connect with who is in front of you. Make your family the priority. Work and the outside digital world can wait.

2. Use Tech To Your Advantage

I encourage you to set limits for tech use but let’s be honest: going cold turkey is not going to be pleasant. Instead, gather the people you love around technology. Ask your daughter to select a playlist for background music at dinner. Get your son to pick some holiday movies to watch on Netflix. Skype or Facetime with friends and family who were unable to make the trip home. Have your little ones choose some games you could play together on Xbox or Wii U. Share special moments on social media for your far-off loved ones to see, but don’t overdo it. In short, keep digital distractions to a minimum by incorporating tech in ways that can bring you together.

3. Allow downtime

Hosting events, initiating small talk and running from party to party can be exhausting. Tell your kids that as long as they are present and in the moment at key family times, you will grant them some time to relax. Their chill time may include texting with friends or mindless moments on YouTube, but be firm in your expectations upfront. Talk to your family about how important this time is for you. Set tech-free times and zones before the holidays kick off, and then let them know you will cut them some slack and allow downtime as long as they follow the rules.

4. Be Reasonable, Not Perfect

Finally, be practical about your expectations. Technology is so woven into our lives that eliminating all devices during the holidays is not only unreasonable, but is practically impossible.  Have an open discussion ahead of the holiday rush. Involve your children in establishing the rules and limits. Agree upfront to acceptable digital etiquette during the holidays, so that everyone can focus on what’s most important: being together.

If you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments below! 


Denise Lisi DeRosa of Cyber-Sensible is an expert in online safety, media literacy and a frequent speaker on parenting in the digital age. She is a believer in the importance of digital literacy for kids, teens and families. She is dedicated to empowering families with the tools needed to embrace the current social and digital technologies in meaningful, creative and positive ways. Denise has Master’s Degree in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University and spent her entire career in the intersection of culture and media with brands like Comedy Central, VH1 and AOL.