Why Your Laptop Could be Damaging Your Family
Dr Danielle Einstein explains how laptops in the home can disconnect us from our kids, and how we can improve our family relationships by giving the gift of our full attention.
Long gone are the days when work stayed at work. For many of us, our laptop is a permanent accessory, faithfully accompanying us from the office to the coffee shop and into our homes. I will be the first to admit that I love my laptop — it allows me to easily work from wherever I am, but it does come with a big warning.
A few years ago, I realised the nicest room in our house was the dining area, so I proceeded to set up an informal workspace there. The dining room table quickly became a mix of mobile office, kids work station and eating area. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, this was a huge mistake.
The attraction of my work and the way my attention locks onto the screen made it easy for me to block out my family if I was in the middle of a task. Having my laptop nearby also acts like a magnet, tempting me to open it quickly to check emails. The only difference between this and my phone is that my phone emits unsolicited sounds to distract me!
Once I realised the negative effect my laptop was having on my family, I committed to use it only in the study and to close it and move away as soon as the kids arrive home from school. Most importantly, I no longer keep it on the dining room table.
Regardless of whether you have pre-teens, teenagers or adult children — if you are currently using your laptop in a central location in your home — it will act as a barrier to connecting with your children.
With so many of us working flexible hours from home or running our own business, not bringing your laptop home may not be an option, but you can start to set some healthy boundaries.
Here are my key takeaways for parents wanting to change their own technology habits and reconnect their families:
When your kids want to chat, can you give them your full attention, or do you struggle to break away from the task you are completing on your laptop?
Do your kids believe you value them more than your work or could your laptop use at home be interfering with this?
What areas of the home are you currently using the laptop in? Can you set some laptop zones like a study or workspace where you can use your laptop and keep it out of other common areas?
Can you agree certain times of day you will log on at home and try to stay off your laptop at other times? This way you can avoid it creeping into the times you want to be fully available for your children.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is our full attention. Not only does this make them feel 'heard', helping us to connect with each other on a deeper level, it also models the behaviour we hope they will show to others in their life.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and confused by how to manage device addiction within your family, you are not alone. In response to demand from parents and schools, I have created The Dip - a practical guide to taking control of screen addiction and reconnect your family. Get your copy today.
Dr Danielle Einstein is a clinical psychologist specialising in understanding the impact of devices on mental health in teenagers. She is an Adjunct Fellow at Macquarie University and an Honorary Associate with the University of Sydney.