As I mentioned in my blog post, Stealing My Joy, I roped my family into a Technology DeTox for the month of September – where we gave up certain forms of technology for the month. Every one in the family participated –from the kindergartner to the business man.
Now some might say, “Why not just pull in the reigns and have tighter restrictions, change a few passwords, or limit screen time? Why give up technology altogether?” To those questions, I reply, “OREOS. I can’t just eat one or two Oreos. I eat none or I eat a sleeve.”
See I’ve realized that I am an Abstainer, not a Moderator – meaning I am more successful with change when I give something up completely rather than try to do the said habit in moderation. There is a reason I don’t drink wine ever. I notice theses same tendencies with husband and children as well.
Others may wonder, “Why give up technology for a whole month? Why not just a week or just during weekdays? ” The answer is I wanted to see a huge difference, a huge improvement with my children. To go without screen times for a full month, gives one’s brain time to readjust and adapt to the new way. It can completely clear the slate and reboot in a sense. Then one is more rational and healthier when technology is reintroduced back in. And lasting change takes longer than 7 days.
I took my technology concerns and my idea for a detox to my family in a Family Council back in July. August felt too soon, and we all needed some time to wrap our brains around what we were going to do. Plus the kids didn’t want to spend their last month of summer with major restrictions. Eventually, the family agreed we would start our detox in September for various reasons:
- Dad would be in town the whole month. (I am more likely to stick to a plan and be consistent if dad is around to help and support and back me up.)
- The weather is still nice. (That way there is more to do and we can all get outside to help break up the day. I would be afraid to try a technology detox in the middle of winter.)
- School and fall sports have started back up. (This means we have less time to fill and less time to waste which is usually where technology comes in. It is a lot easier not to play video games when you are at soccer practice or dance class.)
- The start of anything has magic, especially a new school year. (So the start of a technology detox felt natural. This was a logical time to start something new.)
We had a Family Council and discussed four main areas of the detox: The Rules, The Exceptions, The Reward, and Alternative Ideas:
- No technology is allowed for entertainment purposes — which includes, but is not limited to, NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, video games, computer games, and apps.
- Technology is acceptable for school work, work, home responsibilities (budget, recipes,etc.) church callings, and necessary communication.
- No technology of any kind during family hours which we deemed like 5:00 to 9:00 pm.
- When technology is necessary, use it in moderation.
(I should note that none of my children have a phone, so I did not have to address that issue with our detox yet.)
- Friends’ houses in moderation. (My kids don’t really play at other people’s houses much since we moved, so this really wasn’t a big deal. But I didn’t feel like I could ask other moms to be on my bandwagon and enforce my rules. I also felt like other moms were better at monitoring than I was, so even if they did play, the friend’s mom would kick them off after a short amount of time.)
- Family movie night. (If we were all together watching the same movie, we decided that was ok.)
- Music. (We could use our iPad to play music that pipes out to the whole home. Individual headphones and music were not allowed.)
- Sickness. (This exception was added a couple of weeks into the detox when all my children came down with a stomach bug. They were laying listless on the couch with their throw-up buckets and I let them watch movies as they drifted in and out of sleep. As soon as they felt like moving again, technology was back off the table.)
The reward was a huge part of the technology detox. Although I wanted to have my kids feel the natural benefits of giving up technology, I also wanted them to have something to look forward to to get them through the hard days. We brainstormed reward ideas. This was our list:
- Boondocks Family Fun Center (mini golf, laser tag, bumper boats, arcade, go-karts, etc.)
- Yes Day!
- Utah Olympic Park
- friends over
- dinner at favorite restaurant
Because they are smart, my children ended up choosing a Yes Day! for the reward. Basically, it is a day where Chad and I have to say YES to everything they ask, within reason and within a budget. I’ll include more details on this in a later blog post.
Next, we brainstormed alternative activities that could keep us busy when we were bored or when we would normally turn to technology. I wanted them to have a go-to list.
Here is what we came up with:
- play dough
- finger paints
- jump on tramp
- ride bike
- color / draw
- pretend play
- write a letter
- make a phone call
- board game
- card game
- go for a walk
- go to the park
- dance party
**Locke, my kindergartener, came up with ‘thinking‘. He ran into the house one day and said, “Mom! I know what else we can do when we can’t play technology! We can sit on the couch and think.” And he did just that more than once.
His suggestion reminded me how little time we give ourselves to be with our own thoughts. If we have even a minute or two of free time, we grab our phones and check Instagram or Facebook or send a text. Our brain gets little time to be still and quiet and to process. I appreciated such wisdom from a 6-year old.**
I recorded all of our technology parameters on giant post-it note like paper and posted them in our “mud room” off the kitchen so the kids could see it often. We added to the list as the detox month went on.
So there you have it: the nuts and bolts of our Technology Detox. I’ll write a post about how it actually went, but this is where we started.