A 30-Day Technology Diet
I knew we had to make a change with our technology, it was becoming too much of a distraction in our lives. But I did not walk in one day and surprise my children with this idea. I was not ripping cell phones and iPods out of their hands screaming like a crazy man we were going back to the dark ages. I discussed this concept with them over the course of a month. When we finally arrived at the day of beginning the diet, they had already come to terms with the process and were much more accepting of the idea.
In entering this diet, there were three main goals we were attempting to accomplish as a family.
1) Not feel like they are controlled
Our society has an unlimited supply of activities and entertainment at their fingertips. While some of these choices are useful, the majority of them are simply distractions. This phenomenon will only get worse as our teenagers get older. They need to learn now to be in control of what they view instead of letting a device control them.
This is one of the major goals we are attempting to achieve during this period. I want our children to understand their freedom and not be controlled by anything, especially those items they have complete control over. This exercise is an attempt to open their eyes to see how, and where, technology is controlling their lives.
2) Eliminate the distractions
The second goal is to simply eliminate the distractions in their lives. As mentioned before the majority of what is available to them through the internet is nothing but a distraction. These distractions are keeping our children from engaging in meaningful relationships and activities. If we can eliminate these distractions, which they have control over, they can begin to replace them with more intentional activities.
3) Use Imagination and Creativity
We have lost the ability to be bored. I have told our children since they were young, boredom is simply a lack of imagination. With technology we have given them a shortcut to get out of boredom instead of letting them seek creative alternatives for themselves.
A study from the University of Limerick showed that “Bored people feel that their actions are meaningless and so they are motivated to engage in meaningful behaviour,” Which means people are more prone to create something new, serve someone in need, or engage in more altruistic activities when in a state of boredom. All of which better serve themselves and those around them. But we are not affording our children this opportunity by always offering a distraction to keep them from boredom.
What we are doing
In attempting to discover what we could do during this diet, we settled on 7 specific areas we were going to concentrate on to achieve these goals.
1) No phone in the bedroom
The first step was to remove the phones from our bedrooms. We bought all the kids alarm clocks and setup a station in the kitchen for everyone to charge their phone. The purpose of this was to not make the phone the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing they see before going to bed.
The first couple of nights I left my phone downstairs I was truly amazed at how less distracted I was when I slept. I did not flinch at every noise, wasn’t worried about checking my phone, and overall slept better knowing it was not near my bed. I also felt a lessening of a pull to check my phone on a constant basis. It was alright if I got up, got dress, and made some coffee, before ever checking my phone.
2) No games or mindless browsing
This exercise goes back to our boredom goal. I want them to think of other activities they can accomplish instead of going to their phones, the internet, or a video game as a first line of defense. They are busy with school activities enough and like us adults, they simply want to come home and “veg” a little. But that usually entailed using some type of technology.
How can they relax now by listening to music, playing an instrument, reading, drawing, or engaging in some craft. The activities are endless and extremely more beneficial if they simply stop and take the time to figure out another path to pursue.
3) Scheduled time for TV and Video Games
We are not at a place of introducing a complete technology ban. We still enjoy watching movies together and most of my work is done on a computer. This is why we are attempting to schedule times as a family to watch a movie or play games. The key point is “as a family.” What I am attempting to eliminate are the individual times they are watching TV or playing games.
This is allowing us to spend time together as a family. Do a specific activity, and put all other technology aside so we can focus in on the one activity in front of us. This scheduling also is forcing the kids to be more creative and intentional with their time.
4) No Phones at other activities
When we are participating in other activities, then we must put our phones down. Whether this is playing a game, eating dinner, watching a movie, or specific technology free nights. Our phones must go on the kitchen counter.
This activity allows all of us to be firmly in the moment without distraction. To ensure we can talk, communicate, and relate to one another without being bothered by notifications, web searches, or social media posts.
5) Turned off notifications on our phones
Notifications are an interesting area. While it is nice to be notified when we get at text, email, or post update. The notification is disruptive. It comes when the event happens, which may not be the best timing for you to be interrupted.
By turning off the notifications on your phone you are in control of when you check your messages. You are not in an endless loop of interruptions. But instead set aside specific time to check all your messages. The end result is fewer interruptions which end up making for less stress and distractions during your day. You can spend more energy concentrated on the task at hand.
6) Weekly Phone-free activity or come up with an activities list
In order to be intentional about our time together and our time away from technology we are doing a family activity night. This is usually a game night on Sunday nights, but the intent is to spend time as a family, doing some activity, which does not involve any type of technology.
The purpose of this activity is two-fold. First off, it is much needed time with the family. With three teenagers all going in very different directions it can be a challenge just to get them all in the same house at one time. The second reason is to remind them they can still have fun without technology. This is a much needed reminder in a day and age where we go to our phones for everything.
7) Turned off cellular data
If you go to your setting on your phone you can turn off all your cellular data or just pick specific apps. We chose to leave on the texting and email app for our children. Mainly due to us needing to get a hold of them at various times. And I am not sure they ever check email anyway.
By turning off the cellular data, all the apps can only be checked when you are within a wifi signal. This eliminates a lot extra checking and going to your phone when you are out and about. I have to admit that at first this was a real inconvenience. But after week it becomes common place to only check social media when at home or within other wifi connections. It is another step in untethering ourselves from our phones.
Now, a week into this plan it has not gone perfectly. I want to ensure you that we are not superhuman parents who do amazing things. Our kids have not plugged their phone in outside their room. They have gone to their phone when bored and gone to the TV for games or shows at other times. This is fine, I didn’t freak out or get to stressed. I will give them a simple and easy reminder of something else they might be able to accomplish during this time and they move on.
Remember this is a pretty dramatic change for your kids and you are probably the only family they know doing something along these lines. Take it slow, be intentional, and ensure they have ownership with the process. Eventually it will become more routine for them, and you, to go to other activities first instead of technology.
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