I first wrote this last year for The Great South Bay Magazine. I include it here, now, because it’s exactly what I am doing this week!
During the latter half of summer I began thinking about unplugging. I knew that I was spending too much time on the computer, texting, or with the television on, and too little time with the people that I love. Let me clarify; by “too little time” I mean actual time spent paying attention to, spending quality time with and really listening to the people I love. (Having someone in the same room as you while you are busy doing something else doesn’t qualify as quality time!) So, when Hurricane Irene came into town taking our power with her as she slowly swept past our house, I was actually relieved. I didn’t have to plan the when and how’s of unplugging my family; I could just do it.
Foregoing the technology I have come to rely on was actually pretty easy, probably more so than if I had to physically unplug everything on my own in order to get started. There was no temptation since these devices, sans the cell phone, didn’t work anyway! Not only did the kids not miss seeing their daily Sesame Street episode, they didn’t even ask for the T.V. to be turned on. It was harder for me, having become addicted to a reality television show with no actual plot. As far as the computer, I’m sure my kids loved having me fully available to play without having to literally drag my chair away from the computer, as my son often does! Not being much of a phone person, turning off the cell phone wasn’t an issue for me, but the kids enjoyed the extra attention from my husband! Instead of being tuned into technology, we read more books, played games, talked more and laughed more!
And while creating a bonding experience for my family, I was also aware that I was doing something healthy for their physical bodies. For instance, there have been many different studies showing possible links between cell phones and cancer. While many people may just brush these possibilities off by touting that if they were that bad, they’d be banned, or that there is no definitive link published saying they do indeed make people sick, I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to the people I love, like my kids. Plus, there is a definite link between the electromagnetic radiation coming from the cell phones effecting the brain. Cancer aside, studies, one in particular being done by a Long Islander, have shown that teenagers, among the rest of the population, are actually addicted to their cell phones, and when having them taken away even for a couple of hours, show signs of withdrawel. Then there’s the T.V. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, and that kids older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming due to the fact that the watching of too much T.V. is linked to sleep problems, physical problems (such as obesity), mental problems (ADD type symptoms where children have trouble focusing on everyday tasks) and behavioral problems. As far as the computer is concerned, there is double jeopardy; there is exposure to the electromagnetic radiation and the potential for the same problems that watching too much T.V. can result in.
Overall, taking a break from technology was quite the learning experience for my family. We realized that when we are unplugged, everyone gets more time to listen, more time to notice and more time to be creative and use his/her imagination, thus strengthening both the brain and the bond with those around us. Not only were we all physically present with each other, we were also mentally and emotionally present for each other!
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about what my seemingly tech driven husband thought of this unplugged time, well, when the lights came back on Tuesday night, he turned them off and lit candles. What a romantic!