Be Where Your Feet Are: A Family Tech Mantra

Consider adopting this New Year’s resolution
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In many ways, technology has made parenting easier. We can access medical records and make appointments with the click of a button. We can save precious hours by utilizing mobile banking and online grocery shopping. We can access real-time grades and connect with our kids’ teachers in a moment’s notice.

Yet, most of us are also guilty of losing track of precious time by falling down a Facebook rabbit hole or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, news sites or Pinterest feeds. And our kids notice.

Whether our children are teens or toddlers, our everyday tech habits set an example for our kids and how they will use technology — both now and in the future. The new year is a perfect time to kick bad tech habits to the curb and hit the reset button with a new and simple motto: “Be Where Your Feet Are.” This simply means being present in each moment. If you’re driving, drive. Resist the urge to also talk on the phone. If you’re cooking dinner, focus on that. No need for your phone to be part of the mix.

As the founder of The Social Institute, I coach students all around the country to strike a balance and control their technology use, rather than allow technology to control them. Parents can do this, too, by following three simple steps:

1. Consider tech limits for yourself (not just your kids). 

If you have a family-monitoring device like Circle, consider setting time limits on yourself. (One mom I know has restricted herself to 30 minutes a day on Facebook in order to be more productive). If you’re an Apple user, install the latest update (iOS 12.1 at the time this article went to press) to see what you’re spending the most time on while using your phone, including how many times you pick it up. (To view this, go to Settings > Screen Time.)

2. Mute notifications. 

If you find yourself racing for your phone each time you hear a ding, ring or ping, consider setting limits on notifications. On the iPhone, go to Settings > Notifications and scroll down to see the apps that allow for notifications to be edited. For text messaging, hide alerts by going to a texting conversation, clicking the contact icon at the top of the conversation, then click on “Info” and “Hide Alerts.” If you have an Android phone, go to Settings > Sound and Notification > App Notifications and tap the app(s) for which you want to stop receiving notifications.

3. Turn on “Do Not Disturb While Driving.” 

Lead by example and break the habit of checking your phone while driving. Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb > Activate “Do Not Disturb While Driving” and choose the “Automatically” setting. Many students are familiar with this feature, so if you are having trouble setting it up, encourage your child to coach you. Android users can download the free Driving Detective app, which is based on the same software Google developed for the Pixel 2.

The motto of “Be Where Your Feet Are” allows us to get back some time in our day, break free of our technology tether and, most importantly, connect with our kids. We think that’s an excellent way to kick off a new year.

Laura Tierney, a digital native who got her first phone at age 13, is founder and president of The Social Institute, which offers students positive ways to handle one of the biggest drivers of their social development: social media. She also recently became a mom. Learn more at


Categories: Family, Kids + Media, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Parenting, Technology