As a writer for the Tech Timeout Challenge by life insurance provider Foresters, I made a huge commitment as summer began. I set off to up the ante and do a full week without technology with the whole family. Over the summer, how hard could it be? It was hard. And I am embarrassed to say that we did not succeed. We lasted 3 days. But in the process we did accomplish the original intent of the program. We sat as a family for a minimum of an hour a day for the whole summer, talking, playing board games and playing in the sand. The art of balancing technology use as a parent proved far more challenging than I expected.
I invested in bocce and croquet. We inherited a bunch of board games from a neighbor and in their attempt to make mommy a ‘Princess’, the boys built me numerous castles made of Lego.
So half of me feels incredible – I bonded with the kids, we talked more as a family and I realized that taking away the tech from my kids wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. But the other half is ashamed. Is it society or the high standards I place on myself that make me feel like that? Not sure. Perhaps tasking myself with the elimination of tech while I run a tech business with little time off is unrealistic. Perhaps the tech is my security blanket that allows me to hide when necessary or collect my thoughts when I go through a difficult parenting situation. Using technology
As part of our tech timeout and summer plans, I took my boys on a train to Portland. My husband was away for three weeks climbing Kilimanjaro and I was having a magical time. I taught them Crazy 8’s and Old Maid. Upon arrival we went walkabout. In a generic corner grocery we stopped to collect fruit, chips (it was vacation) and water. But then my 7 year-old went down an aisle and there, at eye-level, were at least 15 different pornographic magazines. We all stopped in our tracks. He began to cry as the lady behind the counter yelled for him not to go down that aisle. I became the lioness mother, being strict with her for having no signage or warnings. We left and I didn’t know what to say.
So I turned to my ‘tribe’. Which happens to only be accessible online. I facebooked my son’s teacher to ask how to handle it. I reached out to another friend to vent. I texted my husband in Tanzania in hopes that he may be in a freakish serviceable area. And I put the boys to bed and held them tight and it became intensely apparent that the world we live in is a different one. It is a world where tech can and should be controlled, but I’m not sure it can be removed.
I was with a few ‘Big Bang Theory’ types this week and we all reached for our phones. One mentioned that his grandmother would be laughing at us texting, but he also said that our brief sojourn into the keyboards was for the purpose of extending out interactions, increasing the size of our village and working to bring more folks to join us in person. He had a point.
So what are my thoughts on our tech timeout?
1. We’re on devices too much and unless there are limits we can slide into constant use.
2. My kids get riled up by tech, and yet when it’s gone for a time they don’t notice. They become more creative, role-play and use boredom to expand their horizons.
3. To ask of myself to give up all tech for a week was unrealistic given my job, and I realized that women often set the bar very high for ourselves and feel like failures if we don’t succeed. Moderation and instincts should be given preference.
4. Placing more importance on sitting around a table and playing actual ‘games’ and talking brought me back to childhood and gave the whole family pure joy. We’ll be sticking with the games and also making sure the technology never creeps into dinners or restaurants when we are bonding as a family.
5. Technology can be used to educate your kids and research their questions or find fun things to do in person with them.
Tech isn’t the devil. But it can also be useless and addictive. I think the real challenge as families is to use it for good – to broaden our village instead of shrinking it.