There are 5 people in this house. Between all 5 of us, we have 5 computers (plus 3 back ups that are stored), 5 Kindles, 3 Fire Tablets, 3 cell phones, and 3 Amazon Fire Sticks. We have Amazon Prime, so we have streaming video there, and also Hulu Plus, plus a dozen or so other apps on the Fire Sticks.
To say that we make use of technology would be a massive understatement. We use technology for a lot of reasons. I, personally, use it for research, for entertainment, and for work. In our homeschooling, we use it for research, for learning, and to get materials. We use TV shows and YouTube videos in our lessons, we use music streaming as a way to listen to tons of music we might not otherwise have access to for music classes, and I use Facebook to stay connected with our homeschooling group so that we can stay abreast of park days, field trips and other activities.
Sometimes, though, it becomes too much. We find ourselves disconnected from each other, too heavily involved in our online lives, and not spending nearly enough time doing other things that we should be doing, including (and perhaps most importantly) spending time together.
So what do we do when we need an electronics detox? When we need a break from being online, from using too many pieces of technology and forgetting about the real world that’s at our fingertips? There are several things we do, both on an ongoing basis and just occasionally.
Here’s a few:
- Weekly Movie Night. Every Sunday night is a family movie night. True, this still uses electronics because of the TV and either the DVD player or the Fire Stick. But, when we have family movie night, everything else is off: all computers, all tablets, all Kindles, cell phones, and even the lights are turned off. And even if the omvie is over before bedtime, those things (well, except for the lights) stay off until Monday morning. It’s a nice way to reset for the week, to relax and ease into the week. There are few exceptions to this weekly movie night. It has happened that we’ve skipped it, but I try to never skip it if it’s not absolutely necessary.
- A hike in the woods. I will admit that my cell phone does go with us for this. Having fallen in my own backyard and broken my ankle in two place and the only thing that saved me from utter agony was having the phone with me, I feel it’s crucial that I have a method of contacting someone, whether a friend or relative or 911, just in case. Plus, it does have GPS and maps, which could be very useful in the event that we end up lost. But the phone stays packed away in a backpack unless it’s needed for one of those reasons. There’s no Kindles, no tablets, no TV or computers or anything else like that. We’ll bring cameras for pictures, and even that isn’t every time. We take a nice long hike, or even a slow stroll, and enjoy the beauty of nature around us. We take plenty of water, and depending on how long we intend to be gone, we also take lunch or snacks. We talk to each other, or simply move in silence.
- Field trips. Field trips are a great way to get away from electronics for the day. Museums, state parks, factories, historical sites, fire stations, police stations, hospitals, and more all provide opportunities to get away. You can take tours, participate in activities, hear lectures, and any number of other things. Depending on the particular field trip, there may still be some electronics (maybe a headset for a tour, or a factory tour where the product is electronics), but most of the time, these are basically electronics-free. In the event of a lengthy drive to the field trip, you may or may not choose to let the kids have electronics as entertainment on the drive – but keep in mind there’s always paperback books, coloring books, and card games that are easy to take and use in the backseat.
- Games. Many times, if you say games to someone these days, video or mobile games are the first thing that come to mind. But board and card games still exist and are still quite popular, and a great break from electronics. Since they typically require no less than 2 players, and are suited for 3 or more, these are ideal for involving the whole family and getting that break from electronics. Some of our favorites include Clue (regular, Doctor Who and one on the Boardwalk), Uno, Headbanz, Twenty Questions, Yahtzee, Zombie Dice, and Beat the Parents. Apples to Apples is also pretty fun, and comes in both a regular and a Junior version, making it easy for the whole family regardless of age.
- Get outside. This one might seem like common sense, but you’d be amazed how many parents don’t really get outside anymore. They send the kids out, knowing that physical activity and time outside is important for them, but they don’t get out there themselves. Did you know that most of us are deficient in Vitamin D and that you can get Vitamin D from spending just a few minutes outside, in the sun, every day? Take a break from the electronics and get your Vitamin D! Head outside, just for a little while, and play tag or hide and seek or even just sit in the yard and read a paperback while the kids play.
Since Christmas, when we got some of the newer devices, I’ve had to make an even more conscious effort to make sure that we get some downtime away from it all. There’s been a few times that I’ve suddenly realized, as we’re heading to park day, that it’s the first time since last park day, that we’ll be spending any time outside. I’m actually considering putting an actual date in the planner each week to ensure that we have at least one day where we go tech-free.
What do you do when you need a technology break?