Remember how my nickname around here is “Internet Girl” – yes, a reputation I’ve earned. Lately though, I’m feeling more like a walking contradiction than an “Internet Girl.” Here’s why: I want to be unplugged more and away from my computer and smart phone. Why?
The answer is simple. Living doesn’t actually take place huddled in front of, or behind, a screen. There are no real friendships that take place online. There aren’t apps that take the place of fresh air, exercise, and taking time to smell the roses. You can’t download digging in the dirt or hiking on a trail. We all have to unplug to actually live.
While I want everyone online – reading my content, of course! – and liking or following, it’s becoming clear to me that we all need to put down the smart phones, screens, and come out from behind our computers. Sitting for long hours in front of a screen is bad for our health and looking down at our phones can be down right dangerous – especially when driving or walking.
How to do it? Unplug. Turn off the devices. Leave the phone behind. It’s hard – I know – not to check.
Making Time for What Matters
Here’s how we do it – and it mostly works.
- Technology Free Sundays :: Yes, the internet is off on Sundays – still. (This began as a New Year’s Resolution several years ago and has stuck.) Guess what? It’s the only day our land-line telephone rings. Guess what else? Teenagers know how to make phone calls and all the teens who call here on Sundays couldn’t be any more polite or pleasant. I love it! Do my teens love it? Nope. They somehow leave homework that requires reading on the web or an update to a Google Drive item until Sunday. We, their parents, are onto them but honestly, they’re good sports about leaving the texting to other days. (Here’s how screen time is like potato chips.)
- No social media :: This is a family commitment but none of us have social media accounts – personally. Yes, you can like, follow, or see Go Gingham professionally Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram but we’ve made it a family policy not have those. Parents and kids alike. None. Nothing. Period.
- Wait :: Not until you’re seventeen – or around there – do you get the privilege of getting a smart phone. Our eighteen-year-old son got his first smart phone at the age of seventeen. He and I got smart phones at the same time – even though I’m not crazy about texting and dragged my feet about the entire thing. He payed for the phone himself and pays for his service. He doesn’t have any data plan on his phone. If he had had a cell phone earlier, I would have rescued him more often and he would have asked me to rescue him. He’s still alive after taking public transportation, public buses, and airline flights without a cell phone. Life without cell phones is good for kids. It’s not a necessity in life.
- Screen Free Vacations :: Camping is great for unplugging! If you’re not a camper, please unplug for your next vacation. (Here’s our camp cooking supplies routine.) That’s all I can say. Car trips aren’t the same when kids are looking at screens or watching movies while the parents drive but honestly – how can they see the scenery? Let them fight and argue and work things out in the back seat – just ignore them. Can’t go an entire vacation without? Don’t allow them at the dinner table or during family time. Somehow, set limits. Parents – you’ve got the power!
- Timer :: Our wifi router is on a timer. It goes off at night around 10pm and turns back on in the morning. It also goes off for about an hour during the middle of the day. This forces everyone (myself included) to take a break and put down the screens. It’s a timer that you would use to turn lights off and on when you’re away. I highly recommend automating the internet. It does everybody and every body good to take a break from the world wide web and this is the insurance policy that makes it happen daily – mostly.
Why do I say “mostly works?” There are always exceptions and with kids, especially teens, you’ve got to pick your battles. Just because it doesn’t always work doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing most of the time. Family policies and rules around technology and social media help us live in the moment and be present. Take a digital detox and enjoy family time – or time alone. It’s amazing how rich life can be when we make time for what’s really important.
How do you make time for what matters most? Are you feeling the need to have ‘screen free time?’