Think you don’t need a digital detox? If the next few sentences sound familiar, then you might just need to unplug.
You know the drill. It’s 6:30 in the morning. Time to get up, because your smartphone is chiming away.
You go to turn it off, but think, “Hmm. What’s the weather going to be like today?”
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And just like that, you’ve lost 15 minutes first thing in the morning, checking your phone for the latest news updates, Facebook posts, Instagram shots and email messages. And that’s just you. If you have children, they’re likely doing the same thing. According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children ages 8 to 18 spend seven hours a day in front of screens thanks to all the new technology they’re surrounded by. That’s an increase of 2 1/2 hours from 10 years ago.
Why not try a digital detox for a few days? Every year, the first week of May is known as Screen-Free Week, an initiative dedicated to showing families how much fun they can have while being unplugged. But really, you can unplug anytime. To help you with your digital detox, we enlisted the help of Jess Davis at Folk Rebellion, a site devoted to helping folks detach from their screens and get back to IRL.
Digital detox 101
First of all, take stock. What do you use your smartphone for? Is your calendar/phone/alarm clock/email retriever/Facebook checker/portal to the online world?
“The more power you give your devices, the more beholden you are to them,” Davis said.
Tell folks you’re going offline for a few days, and they can reach you by phone if they need to. Then buy a planner and write down your plans for the week. Borrow a camera if you’ll miss the one on your phone. Print out a map or – gasp! – ask people for directions if you’re going somewhere you’ve never been.
If you have kids, revisit an old hobby or introduce them to a new one.
“Help them fall in love with the tactile and the tangible,” Davis said. “Provide them with hobbies in the physical space.”
Have them join you in a favorite childhood game. “Battleship,” anyone? Or take a trip to the local library. Or get outdoors. Now that the weather’s getting a little warmer, kids will love exploring the craggy trails in their own backyards.
Easy family digital detox tips
You may get a little resistance initially from family members who aren’t as, um, enthusiastic about unplugging from technology.
It’s all about being prepared. No matter how long your detox will last, it helps to lay a groundwork so that family members will know the expectations.
Set up ground rules. Discuss which screens will be out (can you Skype with grandma or send an email to a teacher?) and set the amount of time. Do you want to try it for a half-day at first? Or a week? There aren’t really any hard and fast rules; just do what feels right for your family.
Plan activities. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood suggests loading up your time with things to do, especially in the beginning. The last thing you want is bored family members complaining that there’s nothing to do in hour two of your screen-free experiment.
Make a big deal out of family dinner time. It’s a great time to reconnect with family members after a long day of school, work, sporting activities, errands and so on. Maybe have everyone choose a favorite meal to make, or have everyone contribute in some way to dinner. Or perhaps have everyone read the same book and discuss it during mealtime. Whatever you do, make it a special time for talking, listening and sharing ideas.
Pick a family project. Is there something you’ve been meaning to get around to but just never have the time? Maybe the garage could use a good cleaning, the yard is in need of serious attention, or a room needs painting. Assign everyone a different role and have them take ownership of it.
Still nervous? Here are 20 great ideas for getting your brood away from the screens, courtesy of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
- Bake cookies and give them to a neighbor.
- Paint a picture.
- Learn the name of local birds and go bird-watching.
- Write a letter to your representatives or senators.
- Attend a play.
- Go roller skating.
- Visit a local park.
- Go on a hike.
- Learn to play a musical instrument.
- Watch a sunrise or sunset.
- Read a book.
- Visit a museum.
- Play cards.
- Go somewhere by bus or train.
- Research your genealogy.
- Wake up early and make a big breakfast.
- Make a snowman.
- Draw a family portrait.
- Learn to play an instrument.
- Go through your closets and hold a yard sale.
Have you ever tried a digital detox for a day or longer? Have any stories to share about the experience? Tell us in the comments section!