Nudging out screen time

I found myself on a long plane trip from Europe (the Firebase Dev Summit in Amsterdam, which was so much fun…. getting to hear from developers creating) and in the frozen-in-time-haze found myself looking at the old tale of a Rabbi helping a family in a small house, find contentment.

Living in the Bay Area, having a small area to live in definitely resonates. However, I then found myself rewriting the story, inverting the order of “filling up the space” and targeting an area that I struggle so much more with: creating a healthy relationship with devices and technology.

Here is the adaptation, which I believe is just as cheesy as the original 😉


A middle class man lived with his wife and six children in a very small house in Palo Alto. They were always on screens ignoring each other and it was driving the parents crazy.

Finally the man could stand it no more. He talked to his wife and asked her what to do. “Go see the psychologist from Screenagers,” she told him, and after arguing a while, he emailed.

The doctor greeted him and said, “I see something is troubling you. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

And so the poor man told the shrink how miserable things were at home with him, his wife, and the six children all addicted to their screens. The poor man told her, “We’re either not talking at all, or we yell and fight to get each other off our devices. Life couldn’t be worse.”

The doctor thought very deeply about the poor man’s problem. Then he said, “Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better. Do you promise?”

“I promise,” the poor man said.

The doctor then asked the poor man a strange question. “Do you have any hobbies?”

“Yes,” he said. “I like sports, and hiking, and making things in the shop.”

“Good,” the doctor said. “When you get home, get the family to go for a walk after dinner each night.”

The man was hoping for advice around device usage, but he promised to listen to the doctor so he went home and after dinner took the family for a walk.

The next week the man met with the doctor. “We are all still arguing about screens“ he cried. “Going for a post-supper walk is nice and all, but it isn’t helping“

The doctor listened and said calmly, “Now go home and signup everyone in the family for a weekly piano lesson, with 30 minutes of practice, daily”

The chap did as the doctor said, but hurried back again the next week. “The piano practice is great, but still…. the screens!!” he moaned. The good doctor said, “Go home and make sure everyone reads for 30 minutes before bedtime.”

So the poor man went home and got his family reading at 8pm. But he ran back again the following week, still crying and wailing. “The reading is great and all, but still, too much screen time is afoot“

The doctor said sweetly, “My friend, you are right. Relax as a family and just play some board games.” And the poor man went quickly home and took out the backgammon.

The next month he came running back to the doctor again. “O Doctor,” he said with a big smile on his face, “we have such a good life now. We are getting exercise, and spending time with each other, and the kids are doing well in school. I hardly mind that we spend some time with technology. Our lives are so full elsewhere, it finally feels appropriate”


Any thoughts on success that you have had managing family balance are appreciated 😉

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