One family shares their struggle to spend less time on devices at home

Both the parents and three kids realize the amount of time they're spending on their phones is hurting the time they spend together. They make small changes that make a big difference.
6:31 | 05/04/19

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Transcript for One family shares their struggle to spend less time on devices at home
Reporter: For six months, we have been traveling this country in search of the answers to the questions we're all asking. Are we spending so much time on our screens it's undermining our families? Our children? Our relationships? Even changing our brains? Let's start with this fact. 49 days every year, that's how much time adults spend looking down just at our mobile screens, and that's a month and a half each year of our lives. Parents across the country tell us they feel they're in a crisis with their kids. When the time comes to tell them to stop my daughter, she's 3, all she does is swipe, swipe, swipe. We need help. Parents need help. Reporter: And kids have something they want to say to grown-ups. How do you feel when mom and dad are on their cell phones? Irritated. Reporter: So a few months ago we sent out a message, asking all of you to tell us what you're feeling about this new world, and is there a struggle inside your home? One of the messages that came back to us was this one from a family asking for help. So we head to the midwest and arrive at the house where this family has agreed to let us install six cameras and software to keep track of their time on devices over the course of about 30 hours on a weekend. And here they are, that family who agreed to open their lives, to do something brave in case it can help your life to. She's an executive at a large global manufacturer. Dad, a financial adviser. They have four children. One at college, three at home. So we're rolling on Friday as school is over. The youngest child, 12 year old Johnny puts on his headphones and gets ready to spend the rest of the afternoon locked into the video game fortnight. He tells our camera he agrees with his mom he wants to spend more family time. Our family needs help. We really don't know what we're doing. Sometimes it gets, like, really, like, it's confusing, I guess. Reporter: This is 15-year-old Carson arriving home. He's a two-sport athlete at school and at home, two scrn at once. Snapchat and video games. His older sister Kristin sits on the sofa with her Snapchat then scrolls Instagram. Dad who works from home is on his computer, too. At 6:30 mom finally arrives home after her 11-hour day at her high-pressure job. Exhausteand ready to spend time with kids. And over dinner they talk about The reality is you are on your devices almost all the time and we don't have a chance to talk. Reporter: Kristin says she needs the time to have friends. Ah. Reporter: Michelle says over the years she tried to set limits, but it always rolled back, and she's pretty much given up. Our cameras keep rolling on Saturday. And later when we scroll through the hours of tape we see what it's like when the family makes a trip to the middle school basketball game other plays card for about an hour. Or the loving kids have such a good time, which makes it striking when we also see scenes like this. Eyes fixed on-screen for hour after hour. Scenes in which nothing seems to move except a scrolling finger and their little dog. So we asked the family to gather with us around the take for a kind of tally. We start with Johnny. During the day and a half we were there, he was nearly 12 hours on screens, seven of them video games. Carson even longer, 14 hours. We need an intervention. Johnny's on his device now. Reporter: And Kristin's stunned to learn she's been on 12 hours. The parents, five hours each of social media, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. So we asked the renowned Gutman institute, which has been helping families for more than 20 years to watch the tapes too and give this family some steps, some guidance toward the change they told us they wanted. A husband and wife, they have counseled families for 25 years. How do we embrace it as a thing that enhances our families rather than takes away from them. Reporter: Two of the kids wander in to say hello and get a teaching moment about family conversations and asking something other than the usual questions. So, would it feel different if you said, what's best thing that happened to you today? It'd get my mind thinking back on the day. That's a good idea. Reporter: So now the family is ready for step one. Have a family meeting. A second step. Dad Todd suggested planning a family adventure, maybe hiking through the nearby park. I checked in to see how it was going. We've made a lot of improvements I've been hanging out with my siblings and parents more. It's not an instantaneous remember lugs. There are still times when bad habits are hard to break. Reporter: So Johnny, how are you doing with the video games? Decent, kind of, sort of. Reporter: He's still playing video games, but they had one great conversation. You talked about how you had your whole life planned out. But we never would have had it if we'd been STA phones. Reporter: The biggest was step three. Use social media, but use it to connect with each other about your day. Everyone loves my mom. All my friends love my mom. So when I see I got a Snapchat from her, everyone gathers around my phone. So I get to participate in her school day. He's going to show you a few Okay. I want to see. They may not go in. There you go. Reporter: Nicely done. Looking at this, I thought, this is kind of like life when you're trying to change. You won't sink every shot, but if you miss, decide to start again.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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