‘Do we need to bring our phones?’ How to manage technology during holiday family time

Posted at 7:36 AM, Dec 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 08:38:28-05

It's the time of year best spent with loved ones...but how long before technology makes it into a holiday family gathering?

Use of phones and other tech is almost automatic these days, and it's impacting family rituals around the world, according to Kathleen Jenkins, a professor of sociology at William & Mary.

She tells News 3 she's researched the impacts of technology on families making the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.

"A number of them talked together of how they were going to create time, for example, of when they use technology and when they don't use technology," she said of the families she's interviewed.

The same concept can be applied to our holiday gatherings, she says.

“If you're going on a walk or going to a museum or some other religious service or practice together, or spiritual practice. If you’re doing that together, you just talk about it ahead of time. Do we need to bring our phones?" said Jenkins.

One suggestion, she says, is for one person to bring their phone for emergencies and communication and the rest leave them behind.

"You decide what the family photo is going to be that you all post together," Jenkins says of another suggestion. "Instead of everyone sitting around and doing their own thing, you're thinking of something creative together."

But it's important that you don't let your phone take you out of the moment.

“It can do that by drawing you into your own social media world and other people’s issues or how you’re engaging with other friends," she said. "It can also mean using those other friends or contacts in ways that are helping you negotiate the relationships with your family that moment.”

Jenkins advises communicating with family about a plan for mobile use and other technology use and sticking to that plan.

Click here for more information about Professor Jenkins' research on technology use during family rituals.