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I've recently graduated from university and am now working full time, while living at home until I finish paying off my student loans and can save up to move out.

While I'm still living at home, I want to spend as much time as I can with my parents, since I know after I move out, I won't see them very much. Even currently, I only see them for about 3 - 4 hours a day during the week, as I get home late from work often and they sleep fairly early.

The issue is, they spend so much time on their phones that I don't feel like I really get to interact with them much anymore. They're on social media during dinner, after dinner, while watching TV, and while in bed before going to sleep. When trying to talk with them, I get short or delayed responses, or asked to repeat myself because they aren't paying attention or aren't really listening.

When I try to talk to them about it, they get defensive and are in complete denial that they use social media as often and as long as they actually do. Short of gathering wifi traffic data to give them hard proof of the amount of time they are actually spending on social media, I've told them how much I've seen them on their phones when I am home and have asked them to try to spend less time on social media. I've emphasized that they might want to spend more time with me and my younger siblings while we're still living at home, because we will all be out on our own before they know it.

While they agree with me when I bring that up, they don't change their habits and lately it seems to be getting even worse. Even during "family activities" like going out to eat, going to the beach, watching movies/netflix together, or playing board games together, they're distracted by their phones for a majority of the time.

Is there a better way I can get my point across and convince them to spend more time with the family instead of their phones?

  • What are they doing when they're on social media? – Euchris Nov 3 '18 at 11:05
  • Have you tried messaging them on social media when they're on their phones? What was the response? – Benjamin Gruenbaum Nov 4 '18 at 9:40
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First point would be to make them actually realize how often they pick up their phone. Talk to the entire family about making a game/challenge out of it. You could use a system like a swear-jar, and every time someone takes out their Phone during dinner or other activities, they have to put a certain amount into it. Keep it small, but consistent, and make sure you and your siblings adhere to the same rules. When going out, you can use a system I know lots of companies use during lunch. Everyone puts their Phone face down in the middle of the table and the first one to pick theirs up pays a round of drinks. (adjust to suit your family and budgets of course)

Make sure to put valid excuses in place, an actual incoming call probably does not warrant a penalty.

Keep this up until they hopefully realize how this is affecting your time together and change their behaviour accordingly.

Alternatively, you can talk about putting a technical solution into place (sort of like parental controls) to limit the amount they can actually use their device.

  • Welcome to IPS! Please take a minute to read our site's guidelines on How do I write a good answer?. We prefer answers on this site to include some explanation of why you’re suggesting this course of action. For example, has this worked with your own family, or have you read about this technique somewhere? How should OP approach that conversation about making it into a game, given that their parents seem to be in denial about the amount of time they spend on their phones? – Em C Nov 3 '18 at 16:32
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Two other options: Present the problem as a shared problem (if this is plausible). Talk about how you feel you are spending too much time on your phone, and maybe recommend an app that shows that to you. Since you've already brought it up with your parents, this might not be possible, but admitting your own fallibility is a good way to soften the blow.

Maybe you could suggest a 'tech free dinner' or other social event. Hopefully being away from their phones and feeling the 'itch' of wanting to check them will help them to realise how dependent they are.

I think the benefit of approaching it this way is that the conversation doesn't start with an accusation, which might prompt your parents to become defensive. Becoming defensive is an instinctive human reaction that prevents resolution, so I find it helps to have subjects be brought up in a more neutral way. With the second option especially, you could frame the 'tech free dinner' as a favour to you, something you're requesting. This might make them more likely to agree to it than if it's presented in a way which is critical of them.

  • We prefer answers on this site to include some explanation of why you’re suggesting this course of action. For example, has this worked with your own family, or have you read about this technique somewhere? How would OP approach the conversations suggesting a "tech free dinner" and discussing the outcome of it? – Em C Nov 3 '18 at 16:35
  • I've edited it to include the suggestion that the OP try to bring it up in a way which presents it as neutrally as possible and not as a criticism of the parents. Is that enough of an explanation? I don't really feel like including personal anecdotes from my life in answers – Bug Catcher Nakata Nov 4 '18 at 9:14

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