In the past few years there have been several initiatives to help us spend less time online and more time “unplugged.” The term “digital detox” has become in vogue and is splattered across ads for Yoga retreats, self-help articles in popular magazines. There’s even a Digital Detox app for your smart phone that will completely disable your device for a predetermined period of time.
My daughter is a sophomore in high school and has been struggling with a new system of learning and grading that requires more self-initiative and planning. As she has been adjusting to having more responsibility for her education her grades have slipped, which has resulted in her being grounded from her cellphone, Facebook and other digital devices, (except for books and music). She has been without these devices for almost a month and we are seeing some dramatic results.
1. Increased reading: Since her electronic devices have been taken away, she has been voraciously reading books. When we interrupt her reading an “old-fashioned” paper book, she doesn’t seem too agitated and she’s more willing to help out.
2. Increased exercise: My daughter has never really been interested in exercise but with the extra time on her hands, she has been going for more walks, jogs and has said “You know, I really should try to get more exercise” at least a few times.
3. Increased family engagement: In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for her to retreat to her bedroom for an hour or more at a time. Most of that time, she was texting. Now she comes downstairs to the family room and sits on the couch with us. When we ask what she’s doing she shrugs, says “nothing” and then joins whatever family activity is in process.
4. They don’t miss it that much: Once the fits of rage and screaming subside (can you say withdrawal?) she fell into a more civilized pattern and didn’t seem to be as upset about not having access to her digital devices. She’s enjoying reading, going for walks and playing with her baby brother more.
5. It’s a good lesson for younger siblings: Her baby brother, who is a little over one year old, will often pick up a TV remote or any other phone-sized device and hold it to his ear and pretend to talk to people. He seems to be doing that less and even enjoys his little board books more than before. He eats them, rather than reading them, but he’s enjoying them for sure. He definitely likes the extra time with his sister!
With improving grades, I’m sure my daughter will regain some of her digital privileges in the not-too-distant future. However, we’ve learned that unplugging is important and I’m convinced that we need to retain at least some “device-free” time as a family. While this “digital detox” started out as a punishment for my teenaged daughter, I think it might just turn into a reward for the entire family.
What about you? Are you up for digitally detoxing your family regularly?