My March 2011 post, Five Tech-free Times for Families, discussed the importance of planning family time-out activities away from digital devices. Time away from screens, I noted, provides family members with opportunities to communicate with one another and enjoy activities that do not require technology (playing outside, eating together, reading, enjoying a game).
Device-free times also help kids and adults become more aware of the people around them, and without screens good conversation is much easier. Many people have kept journals of their device-free activities, and often they note how much easier it is to talk more with people, try new activities, even sit around and relax.
If you missed College Kids Giving Up Their Cellphones: The Incredible Tale of the Maryland Women’s Team, it’s a great resource to read now and share with the young people in your family.
The Washington Post article illustrates how a group of college student athletes take time out from their digital devices. Reporter Dan Steinberg describes how the team members separate themselves from their digital devices and how good they feel about it. Sometimes the players’ phone-free time begins before a home game but sometimes it much longer — 72 hours during the tournament games leading them up to the NCAA Final Four.
And guess what? The players — all 21st Century digital kids and learners — really liked the peace and quiet before games as well as their increased focus on the basketball competition (but not the other team). They discovered that, rather than being bored, they enjoyed themselves more, played informal games together, did a bit of homework, explored, and even just sat around doing nothing.
To learn more about balancing our digital and non-digital lives, check out reading Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers, a book that examines the need to balance technology use with times of disconnectedness.
Take time right now to sit down with family members and plan times when communicating face-to-face will be a focus instead of communicating with screens. Perhaps you can leave devices in a basket away from the dinner table each evening. Maybe the family can take a hike together once a week. It might be as simple as working altogether on a jigsaw puzzle.
Best Quote in the Post Article
“It’s funny,” [Maryland player Brene] Moseley said, remembering those hundreds of messages. “When we got our phones back, it was like we wanted to give them right back.