Photo by: Shutterstock

Disconnecting to Re-Connect

Photo by: Shutterstock

Voices from the Blogosphere—Introducing BLOGGER SPOTLIGHT

Welcome to Blogger Spotlight, where we showcase the authentic voices of moms through their wonderful and diverse blog posts. Nearly everything you’ll read here has been submitted to Mamapedia voluntarily, truly representing the voices of our community. Sometimes humorous, sometimes informative, sometimes bittersweet—always engaging. Enjoy!

Disconnecting to Re-Connect

Last Friday as I was driving with my son, Michael James (4 1/2), I mentioned how quiet he was, zoning out in the backseat. He said, “I’m just trying hard NOT to think about my computer.” It was our first experiment enjoying (and apparently, struggling through) a “No-Tech” day in our family and in our home.

This goal is part of my vision for our family for the year ahead. I got the idea from an author who did a 6-month experiment with her teenage kids living “tech-free”. (The book is called The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale) by Susan Maushart.)

We’re just taking baby-steps: One day per week without computers and TV, a day without checking e-mail or blogging, a day without texting or Facebook, full of opportunities for authentic connection, even luxurious moments of silence! (Ever heard that sound?)

Technology is a part of everyone’s lives and families, but I just don’t want it to be a full-fledged member of the family—always riding in the car with us, sitting at the dinner table, sitting on the couch with us, even sleeping in our beds! Maybe technology can be more of an “invited guest”, present only when we welcome him, and on our terms. Not the screaming, buzzing, flashing, vibrating newborn, constantly demanding our attention and energy and interrupting our tasks, our sleep, and our other family interactions. A newborn is supposed to overturn our lives and call the shots in the family for a while; a device should not.

Granted, I don’t have totally wired teens yet, but I see MJ becoming increasingly addicted to his little hand-held computer (a gift from the in-laws, mind you.) And Ellie (2 1/2) follows his lead, though she still relies on me to push the buttons for “Elmo’s First Day of School” on PBS Kids. And though I limit screen-time, it seems that MJ’s computer is always on his mind.

I don’t want to take “tech” away from them altogether (it brings pleasure and some learning, as well as helping me out when I need to fix lunches or take my weekly shower), but I do want to model and encourage healthy moderation so that these little gadgets don’t re-program their brains away from all healthier activities.

And I know what the research says about the benefits of “down-time”. (This does not mean snacking in front of the TV, but unstructured time without stimulation in which your child’s brain has a chance to guide them.) Studies show that kids who are used to such down-time are more self-motivated with better self-regulation, do better in school, and are less likely to experience “boredom” as teenagers—the “boredom” that leads to risky behaviors.

The computer is a constant pull for me, as well. Not for “ninja penguin games”, but to check e-mail or write a post –there is always work to be done when I open it up, and it often takes me away from more relaxing, connecting activities. And the TV? Well, the kids are limited to one or two shows a day (something without commercials that’s developmentally appropriate and even beneficial), but Mommy doesn’t always stick to that criteria for herself after the kids are in bed. (From what little I’ve seen, I would argue that Toddlers and Tiaras is not really developmentally appropriate for any age group, thought it has been known to cross my outdated “fat”- screen TV.) And I’ve always thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to just spend an evening reading quietly in the living room?” (But I rarely choose this over TV). So, now’s my chance…

Anyway, I was nervous about decreeing our new family law, so I called it “Family Fun Day” to give it a positive spin! As in…“Good news, kids! Today we get to spend time together finding all kinds of fun stuff to do—the stuff we don’t do when we’re on the computer or watching TV!” MJ and Ellie both fussed initially, but not as long as they would have had I waited another month or ten years before announcing the plan! Turns out it was a great day, and by the end of it, we were all on board and looking forward to next week’s “Family Fun Day”!

Here’s a sample of our “fun” together … we planned a meal, rode bikes to buy groceries, and cooked together. We climbed trees and kicked a soccer ball in the yard. MJ (on his own) found supplies to make a necklace, while Ellie played with her baby, strolling her around the house. We had some family music time, as I practiced the guitar. I did some laundry, and discovered that the children love to fold! After a candle-lit family dinner, we went for a “moon” walk, and philosophized about alien life. We read lots of books. And after the kids were in bed, instead of turning on the “old boob tube”, Dustin and I shared a good, long “conversation.” (definition: oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas between two or more people.) Then, we, well…..(ahem)…re-connected.

Maybe this summer we’ll take on a whole week of “family fun” time! You may not go for a “no-tech” day, but consider other ways to limit technology’s role in your family and home. And remember, like with any family and house rules, as the parent, YOU get to decide and set the tone. YOU get to be intentional about creating a “vision” for your family, and making the choices that will help you achieve this vision. It’s not easy—you might have to swim up-stream…but your family will be better for it. Here are some suggested guidelines…

  • No TV’s in bedrooms (half of American kids have them – lots of research claiming ill effects).
  • Just one TV in the house. (Watch together or compromise.)
  • No hand-held computers or DVD in the car. Talk, sing, play, read, gaze instead. (Remember “20 Questions”? Save DVD player for long road trips.)
  • No TV for children before age two. (New research shows that not only does it have no benefit, but could be detrimental.) Also, consider no TV on school nights, especially if your children already have homework. Their time and your time with them is so limited! (Let them relax by playing outside, playing a game, or reading book, instead!)
  • AAP recommends 2 hours or less of screen-time daily. (Perhaps a good guideline for grown-ups, too.)
  • Limit your e-mail and Facebook ritual to once a day or even less!
  • No cell phones or handheld devices at the table. (Eating out? Remember “Tic Tac Toe” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors”?)
  • Press “pause” when someone is speaking to you, so you can look at each other. (I hate giving instructions or goodbye kisses to a zombie…)
  • Don’t let your child/ teen have a Facebook account.
  • Charge and keep kids’ small computers in your room, so you have control over when and where they use them. Charge your teen’s phone and computer in your room at night (so they will sleep instead of surfing or texting).

Happy disconnecting and re-connecting!

Lowry Manders is mommy of two young children in Dallas where she is a music teacher, writer/ blogger, and creator/ presenter of “Parent with Purpose” and “Teach with Intention” seminars. She loves to share great parenting tips and ideas, and reflect on how she tries and often fails to “practice what she preaches!” Read more of her blog at Mommy Manders

Like This Article

Like Mamapedia

Learn From Moms Like You

Get answers, tips, deals, and amazing advice from other Moms.

You might also like

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us
Want to become a contributor?
Want to become a contributor?

If you'd like to contribute to the Wisdom of Moms on Mamapedia, please sign up here to learn more: Sign Up

Recent Voices Posts

See all