Going on a Tech Diet and I Might Die

I wanted to blog about our family’s two-week “Turn-Off-Tech” experiment while we were in the middle of it, but I realized that doing so would definitely defeat the purpose and break the no-technology rules.  So I took brief notes (on my cell phone!).  Here they are:

Initial thoughts:

I realize I am fighting a losing battle.  And it’s not that I am on the war-path.  I’m just concerned.

I realize there are many, mostly younger people, who think I am a mean mom, or crazy.  Or that I am depriving my kids.  Or that I am refusing to allow them to live in their generation.  But that’s ok with me.   Yes, I am choosing this battle.   This might be my “move to the mountains” knee-jerk reaction, I’m not sure yet.

I realize how it looks.

I am not anti-technology.  No way.  We are placed in a pretty amazing spot in history.  And I am grateful for progress and things that make life easier.  I don’t want to live without my technology.  But the fact remains: all these screens are stealing from us.  Our kids are being robbed.

Our 15-year-old son, Ryan, yells angrily at the TV and bangs stuff while playing his virtual basketball.

Our 13-year-old son, Lucas, strangely soothes his God-given hero-heart with violent video games.  It’s become such an attraction for him that we catch him playing in the middle of the night.

Our 8-year-old son, Josiah, watches YouTube every morning.  And he thinks in Vine, which are 6-second videos that loop.  Inappropriate, mindless, and often completely hilarious.

And meanwhile, their Mom is busy on Facebook.

If I had a girl, she would be busily comparing herself to all the other girls and showing off to the boys via Instagram, Facebook, AskFM, Snapchat, and Kik.  There are so many social media sites popping up, I’m sure I’ve left one out that has become relevant in just the short the time I’ve taken to write.

We are being robbed.

We are willingly allowing it.

Truthfully, I feel this tendency to downplay it: “Our family isn’t that bad…others are worse off.”  But does it matter where we are on the spectrum?  Admit it with me–we are a distracted people.   From life.  From loved ones.  From better things.

What if we’re all distracted from becoming who we are created to be?  From doing what we are created to do?

And seriously, what have my precious boys  seen that I have no idea about?

So it’s time for a little tech diet.  We all might kill each other, but we’ve agreed to do an experiment.  We are turning off the screens for two weeks.  We’ve agreed to keep the modern lines of communication open–texting, email, telephone.  But off with the screens–gaming, social media, YouTube, and so on.  This should be interesting.

In our little parenting corner, Ray and I realize the need to do something.  It is time to engage, to go on the offensive.  We have been half-heartedly battling the technology overuse in our home for about a year.  But only from the outer edges.  We haven’t willingly put ourselves on the front line.  And truly, this does feel like it will be a real battle.

Before you decide to do it, engage the kids about it.  Give them time to mull it over, process it in their minds, and recognize their reliance on their go-to technology.  We gave our kids about a week between the time that we discussed the idea and the time we actually followed through with it.  Don’t expect them to be excited about it, but at least they can get used to the idea.

The night we first discussed it around the dinner table, we didn’t make any decisions but had a good discussion.   In all honesty, Ray and I weren’t even on the same page as we had the family discussion.  It took awhile for us to adjust to the whole idea too.

It is imperative that parents recognize in themselves the need for a tech diet.  It is not only our kids’ problem, but also a parent problem.  Admit it to your kids.

We haven’t had real cable for a year.  So TV isn’t a huge draw for us, but still we have a few channels via antenna, plus Hulu and NetFlix on demand.  So we watch plenty and do distract ourselves with it.  You’ll have to decide what works for you.  We ended up watching some, but only when we were all together.


The notes I took during the experiment–

On the 1st Day:

Our 8-year-old told me, “I don’t think we can do it.”

Of course, it snowed for the first time this morning.   I feel a huge “need to know”.  Where do I now get my news?  Can’t turn on TV.  Can’t open FB.  Must stay off Internet.   Does the radio count?

What a great night.  Everyone was engaged.  We laughed a lot together tonight.  Lucas and Daddy enjoyed each other.  We played pictionary as a family but couldn’t find the hourglass so we used my cell phone timer.

Josiah and Mom made cookies.

Mom got caught on Facebook.

Lucas got caught on YouTube.  He answered, ” This is a stupid idea.  I don’t think I can do it. ”

At bedtime, Josiah asked, “What am I going to do when I wake up if I can’t have the computer?”

Ryan was texting at the table, so I took his phone away since I wanted him to engage.  Right before that, he had been sarcastic with a friend and told her that he’d broken up with his special girl.  Just joking, but the girl believed him and texted his girl, starting a firestorm without his knowledge since I had his phone.  Luckily for him, it turned out ok.

The boys practiced an hour of basketball in the driveway.

On the 2nd Day:

I spent the first 30 minutes of the morning on Facebook.

On the 3rd Day:

It was sooooo loud in our house today!  Since the boys can’t retire to their various devices, they are constantly in my way!  Doing noisy, creative things!

At one point in the craziness, Ray looked at me and said, “What were we thinking?  I want tech back.”

On the 4th Day: 

We can’t do this.  Habits break hard.

We are are having a difficult time breaking up with technology.  We’re still busy justifying it in our lives.  I’m using it now to take notes.  We used it at home this morning to grab email, send email, download a district volleyball brackets.  And then I just had to check Facebook.  And then I caught my 13-year-old sneaking some video game time.  Can we really live without it?

On the 6th Day:

Over the weekend, the boys were more content than I have seen them in a long time.  What a blessing to witness and watch.  Really, we didn’t even think much of the tech.  And it didn’t feel like we had to fight the boys about it as much.  Could we be breaking some habits?

It feels good to play some offense.  I heard a quote today that fits:  “Fear, if you allow it, will keep you from everything you are supposed to be doing.”   Today I can see clearly how much we’ve been kept from what we are supposed to be doing.  Without the distraction of screen-time, we have all become much more aware of each other.

Before this, I had some vague notion that we had unrest in our home.  But I didn’t realize the depth of it until today when it was missing.  I didn’t have to nag today.  And my boys are nicer to each other today.  It’s more peaceful.

On the 7th through the 14th Day:

I forgot to take notes.  It just wasn’t as much of an issue anymore.  The boys settled in to the experiment and became fine with doing other things.  The first week felt like a true battle.  But the second week felt like a truce.

We weren’t completely pure in our no-technology this week, but we were intentional.  We used it for what we needed and then moved away from it.  It didn’t control us, and that felt wonderful.

After the Experiment:

I think this may be the most difficult question of all…Can we return to it without falling back into an old habit?