How E.T. is Improving My Family’s Health

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E.T. Phone. How E.T. is improving my family's mental health.

As my daughter has officially entered the full-on kid phase (in my mind she’s still a preschooler, but nope – she’s going into first grade), I’ve been inspired by an amazing nonprofit called START (Stand Together and Rethink Technology) to think about my tech use — and whether I’m modeling the way I hope my kid uses her future phone, social media, etc.  

The short answer: no.  

It would be convenient if the “Do as I say, not as I do” method worked with kids, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. However, there are resources like START, plus small steps we parents can take that make a big difference.  

One of START’s recommendations is to create “Turn in Zones” — a place where you gather devices at specific times of day, like dinnertime and bedtime.  

We do a decent job of having a phone-free dinner, but my husband and I keep our phones in our bedroom, inadvertently encouraging us to check email or scroll on social media before bed or the moment we wake. Also, we let our daughter listen to music on my phone while falling asleep. Doesn’t seem like a big deal in theory, but multiple times I have found 20+ selfies of her in bed. So much for the phone helping her fall asleep!  

We’re not alone. START shares that even before COVID, “nearly 80% of kids were using their devices when they’re supposed to be sleeping, with many waking up throughout the night for every notification. With sleep as a critical factor of mental and physical health, like their devices, our kids need to get a good charge overnight.” 

For mental and physical health, we ALL deserve a good charge overnight. But it can feel hard at first to leave our device outside our bedroom. So, we thought, ‘Why not make it a little more fun?!’  

Enter our ‘E.T. Phone Home’ basket. Each night, we as a family say goodnight to our phones (and E.T.) This ‘home’ outside our bedroom has become a discussion starter about tech and the importance of sleep (plus it introduced our kid to an epic movie from our childhood!) And, it was a blast for us to brainstorm and create.  We’ve had to make some small adjustments, but we consider those changes to be investments in our family’s digital, physical and mental health.  

What do you think of this turn-in zone idea? Do you have any additional “theme” ideas? Leave your comments, questions, ideas below!

E.T. in basket with phone. Sign saying Phone Home.

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