Lessons Learned From Our Technology Diet
Our family has just come off a 6-week long technology diet (a little longer than first discussed, I just didn’t tell anyone it was over). A time period where we were attempting to use technology with more intention and purpose. While this experiment very positive overall, I will attempt to write both the positives and negatives we experienced during this time.
The main point I wanted to get across to my teenagers is to never let anything control you. Not just technology, but never put yourself in a place where you are enslaved to something detrimental where you have no control. Always be able to put it down and walk away. I think for the first time, through this process, the message began to resonate.
For the most part this was very good experiment for our family. When I sat my teenagers down, these were the items they felt were positive over the course of the diet.
1. Easier to Put Down Phone
The first positive item was my kids found it easier to put down their phones. When it came to doing homework, eating dinner, spending time with others, or playing a game. The phone did not have to be right there next to them. They built a good practice of putting down the phone and it carried over for them in a multitude of activities. The consistency of keeping their phones outside their bedrooms aloud them to spend a significant amount of time away from their phones. This was beneficial in building a good overall practice.
2. Experienced Better Time Management
The next practice which was helpful was they gained better time management. By not constantly being on their phones for games, videos, or social media it freed them up for more positive activities. Specifically, in the beginning, I had them go through their phones and delete any games which they felt were taking up too much of their time. This deletion of games was beneficial to all my teenagers to not get sidetrack or distracted by a game and put more focus into the activity before them.
3. Engaged in Other Activities
Before we began the diet I encouraged my teenagers to find other activities they could engage in other than technology. By putting together a list beforehand they were not immediately going for their phones, nor sitting around aimlessly attempting to discover what they could do with their time. Through the process they started playing more on their musical instruments, reading more books, and drawing with their colored pencils more intently and passionately. I was encouraged to see them participating in other activities, it was also good to see how much they were enjoying these pursuits.
4. How to Manage the Phone
While the diet was not perfect, which I will get to shortly, I think the greatest lesson my teenagers learned was how to better manager their phone. How to not always have the phone near them, not having to download ever game their friends have, or being alright not having notifications. They also mentioned how turning the cellular data off all their apps they realized how much the went to their phone to cure boredom. Or spent unnecessary time on a game that was not worth playing. By engaging in the diet they were learning how to better use the phone on their terms and not vice versa.
Alas, all is not perfect.
My teenagers did mention on several occasions, this was very “annoying.” Removing technology involuntarily from their lives was not a smooth process and met several speed bumps along the way. The process was annoying to leave your phone outside your room at night. They found it annoying not have notifications turned on. It was annoying to always think about why you are on your phone. While they did mention it was annoying (if you didn’t hear by now), the bright spot was the fact this was generally only in the first couple of weeks. Once they adjusted, the annoyance seemed to wither.
The notifications was a tricky one and part of this is poor technology design of an all or nothing when it came to this disturbance. For the most part they were fine with not being notified and even found it useful when they were in “flow” with drawing or music not to be disturbed. But they did run into a legitimate issue when it came to group homework projects. Apparently social media is a popular way for teenagers to work on projects together. Having notifications turned off somewhat backfired when they constantly had to look at their phones to see if someone replied so they could move on in their part. This was definitely a learning curve where my teens needed to understand better when to turn on notifications when applicable and when to keep it off.
The diet was also viewed as excessive. While the teens were not able to eloquently describe why, I believe it had to do with the amount of changes. Any one of the changes we implemented would have been challenging in and of themselves. We implemented 7 different variations to combat their daily technology use. I believe this is what they found excessive. But if it didn’t hurt a little then the overall concept would not have been impactful. I may be alone here, but I believe the excessiveness revealed much of the unnecessary ties they had to technology.
The ugly side to this experiment is your kids are going to stick out. My children stated I have made them stick out since birth, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Many parents want their children to “fit in.” To watch your children not be a part of a group because of your decision is a difficult pill to swallow. But many of the areas where we want our children to fit in are not worth their time and are probably more detrimental than beneficial.
When you pull a common item, found in most of their peers hands, out of your own children’s there is bound to be some backlash. While my children didn’t state this outright it is a basic fact. The plus side was having the benefit of walking and talking with them through this process and guide them to see the bright side when they may not have been able to see it for themselves.
The bottom line of what I learned through this process is most teenagers are not equipped to handle technology effectively and responsibly. There are too many apps, shows, devices, and outlets for them to grasp their overall use and context appropriately. It is up to us as parents to guide them through this process of understanding how to use all the technology they are exposed to properly. Otherwise who are they going to look to for guidance in being a responsible user of what is given to them?
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