Last week, we took away tech and our children staged a coup. Earlier that day at their 7-year well check, Henry and Harper’s lifelong pediatrician innocently asked them what they like to do for fun. “Watch TV,” said one. “Play video games,” said the other.
All the tables in that place are child-size so I couldn’t crawl under one to hide.
It was a true #momfail kind of moment.
The overcompensation side of me wanted to shout, “What about the board games, the family walks, your Girl Scout troop, playing soccer? You LOVE those things!” But I remained quiet because lord knows our pediatrician has heard ALL the excuses from a frantic, embarrassed mom trying to put the lid back on the can otherwise known as her child’s mouth.
The truth is we rely on technology too much for entertainment in our house. Our children wind down from school with a 30-minute show. Family nights often center around a movie. Henry and Graham have even coded a small computer chip so they can play Mario Brothers on the weekends. (Impressive how they circumvented my “no gaming systems in the house” rule.)
But after the little incident at the doc, enough was enough. I told my husband I didn’t want technology to define our family’s free time anymore and he agreed. We also decided it was unrealistic to cut it out completely. We are not Amish, after all. So we banded together in solidarity and made a rule that there is to be no tech from Monday morning until Friday afternoon in our house including TV, Netflix, phones, devices, and video games. In order to practice what we preach, we decided we’d follow the same rules while the children are home and awake (4 – 8 pm on weekdays).
When we announced our little plan over dinner to the children, it was like we had told them they couldn’t leave their bedrooms for five days. “What?!!” they yelled as they stood on their chairs. “You can’t do that!” We kindly explained that we could and that our home, in fact, was a dictatorship not a democracy. Over the course of the tech-free evening, these things were said:
“You guys are just copying other families who do this. You need to be more creative with your ideas!” (We asked them who “other” families were. They replied that the Obamas had the same rule. M’kay.)
“This is so going to backfire on you! If we can’t have technology, we’re just going to bother you and bother you until you WANT to give it to us.”
“You’re taking us back to the past! This must mean you think the past is better. This must mean you agree with slavery.” (That one came from the 11-year-old on the debate team. I explained that her contention was a bit of a stretch.)
The attempted coup failed, and now one week later, here we stand, wounded but not waving the white flag of surrender just yet. We’ve had board game tournaments, cupcake wars, and Nerf gun battles. We’ve gone on after-dinner walks, read mystery books, and, yes, even had another family debate (because our kids think it is fun to stand on chairs and refute each other’s arguments).
In his book The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch writes “We are continually being nudged by our devices toward a set of choices. The question is whether those choices are leading us to the life we actually want. I want a life of conversation and friendship, not distraction and entertainment; but every day, many times a day, I’m nudged in the wrong direction. One key part of the art of living faithfully with technology is setting up better nudges for ourselves.”
By recognizing that technology was at best a distraction for our family, and at worst, a derailment, Graham and I are beginning to chart a new course and see positive results. By setting boundaries of time and space with the technology we ingest, and implementing the nudges Crouch writes about, we hope to be a more present party of six in 2018.
///What restrictions do you put on technology in your home? Are you seeing a difference after making these changes?///
Mary Techau says
So important! IT IS CHILLING HOW CHILDREN TODAY BECOME SO ENGROSSED INTO THEIR TECHNOLOGY INSTEAD OF physical INTERACTION WITH friends and family. Thanks for recognizing and working to change this.