I have wrestled with the increasing intrusion of technology into my life for years, even before I became a parent almost four years ago. I resisted getting a smartphone for a while because I knew what did end up happening would: I would compulsively check my phone, even without wanting to or thinking about it.
Knowing that our tech-heavy household would inevitably lead to my son's future love of screens, games and devices, we decided to follow the advice of experts and postpone his exposure as much as possible. We didn't let him watch television for his first two years, except in a couple of rare occasions when he was sick and had to sit still for treatments, and still keep it to a minimum (maybe once or twice a week, if that). It seems to have worked well for us. My son loves to play outside, has a very active imagination, is social and conversational, and loves books, music, art and role playing.
Lately, though, we have been less vigilant and technology has been creeping gradually into his life. He definitely know how to use touch screens on tablets (better than I do!) and thinks computers are televisions where you can watch trains on demand (thanks, YouTube). He becomes so engrossed every time he encounters a screen that his usual sunny personality changes into Mr. Hyde when we turn it off. Grouchy-town! This steady invasion of technology into our lives is what drew my attention to an interest post on "Your Modern Family" (linked here) about a mom who instituted a "No Technology Week" in her household to see how it would affect their mood and the time they spend together.
This may make me sound like an enemy of technology, but it's kind of the opposite. I love technology and love using and tracking its newest evolutions. That's why it's so hard to recognize when the over-use of technology blinds us to the many other joys of life outside the boundaries of the screen. It's also difficult to recognize how our over-use of mobile devices and compulsive, neverending communication can exhaust us and affect our mood negatively.
According to Becky at "Your Modern Family," she instituted "No Technology Week" after making these observations about her kids' tech use:
"1- Imagination goes downhill
2- Rude attitudes & arguing go uphill.
3- Listening goes downhill.
4- Not wanting to play with us goes uphill (When I say “Come on, guys! Lets play football” and they say “No, thanks”, I know there is an issue that needs to be addressed.)
5- Not wanting to go in the car if they can’t have their iPods. (I’m not exaggerating)"
So they decided on their one-week experiment, with these rules:
"1- No iPods at all. No Kindle. Not even the Leapsters.
2- They can watch what we are watching (food network, HGTV, history channel) but they can’t watch cartoons, kid shows, etc… In other words, they won’t be watching anything unless we are all watching as a family. My husband and I rarely have time to watch TV, so this is about 30 minutes a day."
This is what happened:
"Day 1- They are crabby, mad and just plain disrespectful.
Day 2- They beg to use electronics. They are still mad.
Day 3- They start to use their time for arts (drawing) or playing pretend (superheros, knights…)
Day 4- They are arguing MUCH less!
Day 5- They still ask for their iPods, but it is not nearly as much. They start connecting with us & each other more. I am loving this!
Day 6- Reading is fun again. Playing is fun again. They are happier! We are happier. There is more PEACE in our home.
Day 7- I love this no technology because when we aren’t connecting on our electronics… we are connecting with each other!!!"
"You can reintroduce technology slowly – maybe 30 minutes a day tops! I find that when the kids do go back to using their iPods, they usually want to do it together (so they will each get on mine craft & build together, showing each other and sharing with each other for their full thirty minutes). They are so much closer after just a week!"
I think I will probably try a version of this in our household, but extend it to us adults, too - in a more limited way. Maybe only essential use of devices outside of work hours. After all, kids often start doing things because they see us doing it, first!
What do you think? Does technology have an effect on your family? Do you think "No Technology Week," or something like it, could work for you? I'd love to hear the opinions of some technophiles. How do you use technology beneficially in your household?