3 Tips for Replacing Phone Time with Family Time

3 Tips for Replacing Phone Time with Family Time


By Courtney Cagle and Melody Bergman

We know it’s a problem. It’s so easy for teens–and now, even young children–to become glued to a phone. They crave the entertainment, connection, and stimulation that these devices can provide.

But there isn’t a magic age where the craving stops. As parents, we can struggle too. Just like kids, adults often feel the constant need to have phones by their sides and end up turning to them for comfort.

But how are these phone habits affecting our everyday life, our social relationships and our brains? The truth is that tech habits can easily evolve into harmful addictions, especially for our children. (If you believe that they do have an addiction, check out Helping Our Kids Overcome Tech Addiction.)

It’s time for us to strike back! We need to be intentional in our parenting if we are going to help our families create a healthy balance between tech use and real life. It will require hard work and active involvement, but it will definitely be worth it!

Here are three tips for replacing phone time with family time:


  1. Encourage physical activity after school. When your kids come home from school, engage with them, ask them about their day, help them with homework, and then get active! Go on a walk with them, play catch, or do some other physical activity that will give you time to talk to your kids and bond with them.

Physical activity also releases endorphins that will make both you and your kids happier (Domonell, 2016). Building healthy habits like this will help family members learn not to automatically resort to their phones when they need a pick-me up.

Also, if you are bonding and being active at the same time, you get the best of both worlds. It is so important to develop strong relationships. Your kids need to know that you are genuinely interested in their lives both online and offline. If they know that you care about them, they will be more likely to turn to you rather than their phones. They will look forward to spending time actively involved with the family, and so will you.


  1. Set boundaries regarding phone usage. Make rules with your kids regarding phone time, and make sure you follow the rules too! You may not think your kids are watching, but they are. And your example is more powerful than you may realize.

If you would like to create a media guideline, here is a great article to help you get started. Be sure to involve your kids in the decision-making process so they know that their voice is valued and heard. An example for limiting phone time might be to allow your kids 30 minutes on their phone each day. It could be from 5:00 – 5:30 p.m. or whatever time works best for the family’s schedule (King, 2018). Every parent is different and family rules will differ depending on the family. Create a custom plan that is just right for you.


  1. Create a list of screen-free activities. Kids often complain about being bored. Before that happens, take some time to compile a list of fun, screen-free activities they can go to.. You can come up with your own list, or check out this downloadable template. Make it your own and be sure to select activities that will be enjoyable for your kids. Ask them for input and put together ideas they will love!

Here are some examples of activities that families can do together:

    • Play a card game or board game
    • Put together a jigsaw puzzle
    • Play sports
    • Climb a tree  
    • Plant a garden
    • Play foursquare, kickball, tag, hide-and-go-seek, or other outdoor games
    • Cook a meal or bake treats
    • Draw, paint, sculpt, or make a craft
    • Read books or magazines
    • Visit friends or family
    • Ride bikes or scooters
    • Meditate or do yoga
    • Visit the library for storytime
    • Visit a museum on a free day
    • Go to the park
    • Go on a hike or picnic
    • Do free crafts or projects at Michael’s, Home Depot, or other stores


Activities like these have so many benefits! Among other things, face-to-face interaction leads to increased socialization and intelligence, which can help kids make more friends and develop their confidence (King, 2018).

There are so many ways to engage our families in activities that don’t include technology, but it requires you to be involved. Let your kids see that you care and you want to talk to them and do fun things with them. It will result in open communication and a great relationship. As we work together with our children to be more physically active, create boundaries around our phones, and brainstorm for fun alternatives, we can create a healthy balance with technology in our families!

Want more resources to teach kids healthy phone habits? Check these out:

Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Tech for Good, available for purchase here or on Amazon.

5 Ways Kids Can Use Smartphones for Good 

Parenting in the Digital Age: It’s Time to go on the Offensive 

10 Ways Kids Can Use Technology for Good

Positive Things We Can Teach Our Kids to Do on Social Media

Lesson: Kindness: Online, Face to Face, and Everywhere


Courtney Cagle is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves kids and wants to help create a safe environment for all children to learn and grow.

Melody Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys and founder of Media Savvy Mamas. She is also a member of the Safeguard Alliance for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and facilitator for the Virginia Alliance on Sexual Exploitation. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families.

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Domonell, K. (2016, January 13). Why endorphins (and exercise) make you happy. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/endorphins-exercise-cause-happiness/index.html

King, K. (2018, April 02). Helping Our Kids Overcome Tech Addiction. Retrieved May 18, 2018, from https://educateempowerkids.org/helping-kids-overcome-tech-addiction/