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Dakota Medical Foundation’s Tips for Digital Wellbeing

Digital addiction is something almost everyone can admit to, if they’re being honest. But sometimes we might not be aware of how much screen time we, or our kids, are getting. Dakota Medical Foundation (DMF), an organization that spearheads community-focused projects and programs, aids in fundraising for charities, and provides resources for solutions for broad health betterment, looked deeper into this health issue.

Throughout their study, they found a multitude of statistics that inspired the larger campaign. American teens spend an average of nine hours a day consuming entertainment media, and adults spend about seven hours—and those high numbers are linked to a higher likeliness of having suicidal ideation than those spending few hours in front of a screen.

The bottom line is that if adults with matured brains and focus find it challenging to fend off the constant temptation to scroll and click, children stand little chance against this digital pull and the consequent addiction—which is why DMF has provided a ton of resources for families to challenge digital addiction.

Meet the Barbot Family!

Kelly Barbot, with over four a half years as a design lead at Dakota Medical Foundation, enjoys reading, crocheting, and the comforts of home. Her husband, Jerad Barbot, has been a web developer at Onsharp for 12 years, recently returning to his hobbies of golfing and tinkering around the house. They met while working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of ND and have been married for 12 years. They have two active boys: Brody (10) joined basketball, and Leo (8) loves sports and creativity. Weekends are spent relaxing, attending local events, and cheering on the Vikings, Fighting Hawks, and the Wild while visiting family.

After becoming aware of digital addiction through DMF, Kelly Barbot considered her and her family’s screen time and decided to challenge them, and herself, with change.

“I wanted to model a more appropriate digital usage for my children, I don’t want them to remember Mom and Dad always being on their phone,” she said.

The family’s usage of screens and media looked like this: most mornings began with tablet time and TV before school, which led to a tough time for the entire family when trying to get ready to go. For Kelly, after the alarm went off, she was immediately checking social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, “I’d have to see what I missed while I was sleeping, of course,” she said.

“Throughout the day, at any buzz or social media notification, I’d immediately have to check it out—no delaying. I was worse than the kids and my husband. I don’t know how many times I’d check social media throughout the day, but let’s say it was excessive and my husband was usually the one to call me out on it.”

After sharing what she had learned about digital addiction with her family, they implemented some new rules and a model around what screen time would look like. While this wasn’t without pushback from the kids and a challenge for everyone, this was something Kelly wanted to try with her family— whatever that looked like to them.

Whether it was Jerad and Kelly reminding each other of their phone usage, Kelly actually deleting her apps, or the kids adjusting to the lessened tablet time— they were creating new habits to replace the times when they had previously reached for their devices.

How did the family adjust to the changes? Brody started playing basketball and said, “My confidence is slowly growing.” Jerad began coaching Brody’s basketball team and says it has been amazing to watch that confidence grow. According to Leo, he’s less angry, and Kelly has found her anxiety lessened and isn’t experiencing FOMO—or, fear of missing out—like she once did. “I find myself not comparing myself to others like I once did,” she said, “I’m enjoying what I have more.”

Are you or your family ready to challenge digital addiction?

DMF has a wide collection of resources to help you and your family rediscover life with fewer screens. Find a variety of different resources ranging from apps, books, e-books, and articles to videos, websites, and activity ideas for you and your family to utilize. One of those resources details DMF’s Phones Down Heads Up Challenge, check it out!

10 Tips

  1. Surprise every family member with their very own wake-up buddy: an alarm clock. Say goodbye to morning phone traps!
  2. Set up a gadget power hub for everyone’s devices and keep bedrooms a “no-charge zone.”
  3. Designate some chill zones in your home where tech takes a break. If you’re having guests, have the phones take a time out in another room!
  4. Pencil in some techfree time slots for you and the kiddos. Dinner or dusk, pick your off-grid hour. 
  5. Try daily checkins with your kids. Chatting about their day can keep them from processing big emotions online in unhealthy ways.
  6. Make meal times a phone-free challenge—first person who checks their phone is on dish duty!
  7. Nightly routine: PJs, brush teeth, and… screen time check! Set your digital curfew and stick to it.
  8. Hosting a crew of kiddos? Have them drop phones in the welcome basket on the way in.
  9. Devices need their rest too, so power down 30 minutes before dreamland
  10. Challenge your kids to go wild without Wi-Fi! From nature explorations to board game battles, big book dives to kitchen cook-offs, and exercises—plus, remind them it’s okay to be bored sometimes!

Visit DakMed.org for more tips and resources!

"It's not a one-fits-all solution," Kelly said. "For myself, I chose to delete all of the social media apps on my phone. I can still access Facebook on my computer, but I don't spend hours mindlessly scrolling—the enjoyment it once had is gone. You make it work for your family. I don't think it's realistic to get rid of all technology. It's not the way the world is going, we live in a time where kids are on tablets at school, people text to communicate vs. calling, and my job is sitting in front of a computer all day. But, when you set some limits and parameters you can cut the chains and start to regain freedom of what it was like before we were tied to these tiny computers."

Becoming aware of your technology usage is important, adjusting it can be tough—but working together as a family to correct digital addiction is invaluable! Learn more at dakmed.org/health-and-wellbeing

Written by Geneva Nodland

Catholic Charities North Dakota is a Trusted Resource for Families

Beyond Boundaries Therapy & Wellness Serving FM Families