After last week’s post, Is Tech Taking Away from Family Time, I decided my family would try to stay off all digital devices each night from 6 to 8 p.m. The following are the daily updates on the progress of the Digital Diet:
Day One (Last Wednesday) I tell my husband about the Digital Diet. “Are you sure you want to do this now?” he asks, “Over Christmas break?” Of course, I say, it will be easier this way. He vows his complete support. First hurdle crossed.
Next I tell the two boys about the Digital Diet. “No technology from 6 to 8, p.m.” I say.
Smart aleck older son says “No technology? But technology has been around for thousands of years!”
Younger son adds, “books are technology, you know!”
“No digital media technology,” I amend. No phones, TV’s or computers. They look none too pleased but don’t argue.
At 5:30 I am forced to go out shopping. I wonder if they will hold to the digital diet while I’m gone. I tell myself I’ll monitor them tomorrow, but for now, the digital diet will be not to answer my own phone. But then my dad calls. My dad is infirm and I’ve been trying to reach him for days so I cheat on the Digital Diet and answer. He wants to check in, tell me that he hasn’t seen my brother, who lives in the same town, for a while. What’s more, according to him, Christmas is overblown.
I kick myself. This couldn’t wait until 8 p.m.?
Digital Diet day one: I left the house, dropped the surveillance, and answered the cell phone. Okay. Try again tomorrow.
Day Two: Went a little better. At 6 p.m. got younger son off World of Tanks. Got older son off watching Arrested Development by sending him to pick up older sister at the airport. He argued for a minute but then settled down once I gave him gas money that was more than sufficient. Younger son moped for a while and I cooked dinner. Then we cleaned the hamster cage, fed the horse, picked up younger sister from a friend’s house and brought her back. My husband was still in his office but I assume he was honoring the plan . Honestly I was afraid to look. I will show more fortitude tonight.
Day Three: I had to go to get middle son from the airport (okay this is a large family) so I couldn’t monitor the digital diet again. I remembered what my husband said “is this a good time to try this?” Maybe he was right. When I got back I asked older sister how it went. “We girls did do it,” she reported, “though we feel ‘Digital Diet’ is a dumb name.” The boys started but did not finish … well, tonight is Christmas eve, and we’ll try again.
Day Four: Tonight I was frantically cooking creole gumbo as the hour of 6 approached. Older son: “Can’t we move Digital Diet to 6 to 8 a.m.?”
He goes off to his bedroom. But younger son stays downstairs, starts making patterns with poker chips. Now we’re getting somewhere. I keep cooking. I realize I am cheating on the diet myself because I am reading the recipe off the internet on my phone. But then, I tell myself, things that you could do in exactly the same way on paper are not what the digital diet is about …
Day Five: Tonight was Christmas Dinner. We were cooking a roast beef dinner for the first half of the digital diet hours, and for the second half, we were eating. With so much happening and the younger son learning to fly his new drone, we didn’t have any problems keeping the kids off digital media.
Though I was troubled by the idea that the drone is digital I relaxed at the thought that it’s not media.
Day Six: Now we are hitting our stride. When I tell younger son that 6 p.m. is approaching and to get off the internet, he complies. After dinner, the whole family spends time cleaning up the kitchen and living room. And talking to each other.
Day Seven: At six, kids are told that no-tech time is here. Younger son begins to look for board games. “Where is the chess set?” he asks. We can’t find it. He wanders around complaining. The drone is charging so he can’t play with that for about an hour. Unable to find a game to play, younger son goes to sleep. I catch myself opening up the computer to check on house-for-sale listings but then, dismayed with my own inability to stay off the computer, quickly shut the lid. Older son has his phone out, but he’s reading a magazine online, so he says this doesn’t count. I am unsure.
In the end, though it’s clear to me that we do have something to gain by shutting off the digital media during the dinner hours, the Digital Diet experiment was somewhat inconclusive. My observations suggested that removing access to computers and phones would increase person-to-person interactions not to mention completion of housework, but it also put a spotlight on the need for more non-tech activities in the house, not to mention the existence of numerous “blended” activities such as reading recipes and magazines on the phone and answering calls from family which mimic “analog” technology behaviors but which use digital technology.
I ask my husband if we should continue the tech-free time into the next week. “We will need to continue the experiment,” he says. I agree. We determine to keep with 6 to 8 for the time being and reassess at the end of four weeks.