Tech Free Family Renaissance

In There's a Stranger in My House by Dr James Wellborn

Technology has taken over our lives in both wonderful and annoying ways.  Here’s a particular question that can have a troubling answer.  What is the longest you and especially your kids have gone without using electronic technology?  Most of us don’t realize the ways in which our reliance on and responsiveness to technology has filled every moment with some kind of information, entertainment, distraction and noise.  Worse yet, your kid is being continually spoon fed ideas, thoughts, opinions, values and priorities by the content of the electronic material they are consuming as well as how the applications are programed to present it.  There is no time for boredom to spur the kind of quest that reveals hidden mysteries and quiet wonders.  There is no opportunity for kids to discover their uniquely creative side.  There is no solitude for deep thought.  All these priceless experiences are drowned out by the constant barrage of information and stimulation.

What’s a parent to do?

The challenge.  Pick a day a month (or every week if you are INSANE—or being driven insane) to go tech free.  Unplug everything electronic; TVs, computers, phones, mp3 players, car radio, internet and video games.  (Ebooks are exempt if and only if they are used to actually read.  No cheating by accessing the internet, etc.)

Warn the kids.  Don’t spring this on your kids without giving them the rationale.  Making your kid turn off their cell phone or lose access to the internet without warning can lead to major conflicts.  Convene a family meeting.  Go over the reasons you decided to take the family through this horrifying experience.  Let the kids whine and argue.  Conclude with the decision to have a tech free day/evening.  If you want to have some evil parent fun, respond to any resistance they show to this idea by telling them it is clear proof they have an unhealthy relationship with technology thus this new policy all the more important.  In other words, if they agree you are going to do it because they want to; if they don’t agree, you are going to do it for their own good.  It really infuriates them.

Plan ahead.  Try to find a day or evening that imposes the least burden on everyone’s schedule.  Involve your kids in the process.  There isn’t a set number of hours or a definite amount of lost texting required to benefit from this experience.  Nevertheless, there should be 2-3 hours of dead time somewhere in there.  If the tech free time is filled with sports practice, chores or dinner they haven’t had to actually find something to do other than update their social media account.

Allow them to inform their peeps.  Remind your kids when the time approaches so they can send sarcastic, critical texts, emails and social media posts into the ether about their INSANE parents.  Because, you know, if someone doesn’t respond within like 3 minutes to a text or 15 minutes to a new post on their social media account it is the same as saying they hate that friend and don’t care at all about anything that is happening in their life!  OMG!

What about friends?  Why not.  At least some of the time.  That is, as long as the friends understand they must follow the same rules; no cell phones, etc.  It is a way for your kid to find out who their real friends are.

What do you do?  The point is to have no planned activities or schedule.  However, sitting for 8 hours straight without talking while staring at your navel is not quite what is meant by this experience either.  As long as there are 2-3 hours of nothing planned just not technology, you can help fill the time with family activities.  Here are some ideas. READ!  Sit on the porch.  Go for a walk.  Go for a drive.  Have a picnic.  Build a bonfire (though check with local ordinances).  Go to the lake, river or stream.  Play card games or board games that require planning and strategy.  Do a jigsaw puzzle together.  Play yard games (e.g., badminton, bocce ball, horseshoes, Frisbee, volleyball, football/soccer/softball, etc.).

You will be shocked (and a little disturbed) at how difficult it is to go tech free at first.  You will be surprised (and pleased) at how you rediscover each other, personal interests and simpler pleasures there just wasn’t time for before.

posted in

Print Friendly, PDF & Email