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The Miley Family: Finding Screen/Life Balance in Silicon Valley

Miley Family - Disconnecting in silicon valley

At Freedom, we love our users – not just because they use our product, but because they’re cool – cool people working on cool stuff. Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, bestselling authors, editors, journalists, developers, illustrators, designers, academics, coaches, podcast hosts, comic book writersexplorers, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and passionate go-getters. We love to share their stories, advice, and process because how better to learn about productivity than from the productive?

Usually our spotlights highlight the working habits and practices of professionals from various fields, however this week we’re not talking to an individual, but rather a family from Silicon Valley.

Meet the Miley Family.

The Mileys are a family of three, who are based at the very epicenter of all things tech – Silicon Valley. Sandra Miley and her husband both work in the tech industry – her husband is an engineer focused on cloud platform scalability, while she is a management consultant focused on market-facing growth strategies for various tech clients. Their son is currently 14 years old and learning to balance his time between school, sports, and tech.

Completely immersed and surrounded by tech, we sat down with them this week to learn a little more about how they use Freedom to create healthy boundaries with tech and digital distraction.

First, could you tell us a bit about you and your family’s background, what you do, and where you’re currently based?

We live in Silicon Valley and have one son who is 14. My husband and I work in the tech industry — he’s an engineer focused on cloud platform scalability, and I’m a management consultant focused on market facing growth strategies for tech clients.

What started it all for you? When did you  realize that tech was taking a toll on you and your family life? Or, when did you know that you had to do something about it?

We realized there was an issue around the time our son was in 5th grade. He was spending an increased amount of time gaming and on YouTube. When it interfered with family life because he could not pull himself away, we realized we needed to do something. Around this time, we read an article in the NYTs on apps to help kids. Freedom was mentioned in that article as one of the apps recommended.

How did you first open the discussion regarding tech use in your family?

This is an easy discussion for us as we’re always trying new tech and like to remain plugged into what’s happening. It was as simple as reading the article, downloading the app, and giving it a whirl. If I remember correctly, that article really resonated with us given where we were with our son by that point.

What are some of the limits or boundaries you have imposed as a family in order to make sure you’re using tech intentionally and at the appropriate times?

Now that our son is 14, we want him to learn how to manage his time and be able to disconnect on his own. After school, I’ll check in on what homework he has to do and may ask, “Do you want to turn on Freedom?”.

When I see that he cannot manage his time on his own, I’ll ask my husband to turn on Freedom remotely from work. That’s usually a last straw maneuver. We want our son to learn how to manage his screen time before he goes to college.

How have you incorporated Freedom into your daily school, work, and home lives?

Everyday. Literally. Our son is a student-athlete who competes at the national-level in fencing – so he has very little free time. He is highly aware that time management is key to his success.. He’s learning how do this better with Freedom in combination with applying the Pomodoro Technique to focus and take breaks. 

Do you have any routines or rituals that help ensure tech is adding value rather than distracting?

Our pattern is to simply talk about it. I’ll ask, “Do you need to schedule Freedom,” or “Do you need to set a reminder with Alexa?”. Our son is great at using tech to help himself. We also use Grammarly. We see tech as critically important and, fortunately, Gen Z is tech fluent.

Living in Silicon Valley, at the heart of new and emerging tech, what role does technology play in everyday life? How difficult is it to disconnect?

We are immersed. It’s a constant conversation, given the majority of people around us are in the tech industry. The conversation around disconnecting and screen-time is focused on kids who are learning how to effectively integrate technology into their lives – a skill that most adults in our community learned long ago.

What are some of your biggest distractors and how do you combat them?

YouTube is the biggest distraction for my son and his friends. However, there are positives to YouTube as well, I do see my son learning a lot on various topics, as I do as well.

What were some of the negative effects you experienced of unrestricted or unmonitored tech use?

Simply put, if we did not put on restriction through Freedom, my son would not be able to do well in school and fencing. There would be nightly battles, procrastination, tears, etc. It would have a very negative impact on our family.

Tech can be distracting and an enticing lure for all ages, how do you stay motivated and disciplined about your tech use as a family?

I think we are focused and motivated people so generally don’t have a lot of issues around it. Since our work is in tech, it’s more of a luxury to get off (e.g. sit in the garden, go for a hike, etc.). For our son, one of his favorite things is to walk over to the neighbors for a meet-up with his pals — combines friends, fun, and tech in discrete time blocks.

What are some of the greatest benefits you have found from disconnecting more frequently or using your tech intentionally?

Freedom. Feeling untethered and off the grid, off email, not always being available. We love being off on the weekend and rejuvenate by being outside in nature or just hanging out together as a family or with friends.