Toss the Tech

Mr BigStuff and I recently went on a 4-day cruise to the Bahamas. Being in the middle of the ocean can force you out of all sorts of daily habits - of the ones we rank up on the least healthy scale, binge watching TV shows, constant phone use, and screen time in general are the vices we unhinged for the last 4 days and IT. WAS. GLORIOUS!

 You may have ready Cyber Junkie by Kevin Roberts or tried the screen fast protocols from Tara Goodin. Both can give you some perspective on screens and the research that is starting to take hold. So many of us are addicted, and even when we try to unplug, work or school pulls families right back in. My local school has a 1:1 technology policy, meaning every kid will have access to a device for school and homework (currently 100% in grades 6-12), making an unplug near impossible.

 Now we didn't jump on a cruise with a screen fast in mind - all I wanted was a few days of escapism from the cold and wet Virginia weather. We even got a single device Wi-Fi plan for the trip. It wasn't cheap and the service, even though "the premium" version, was about as fast as 1990’s dial-up. I so enjoyed the break. In fact, I only got online to download digital books for the plane ride home because I devoured the hardback that I brought with me. The point was, compared to typical land access, it was painfully slow with frequent hiccups in service and not worth using.

 Regardless, here's what we learned on our surprise fast:

  1. Circadian rhythms are quite easily put back into place when you completely remove screens from your daily routines, ESPECIALLY when you add in plenty of exercise and sunlight. You know how I love to talk about how much green time helps your body self-regulate! Turns out, even on a ship you can make this happen. I slept so much better, more soundly and longer on this trip…until the last day when we binged a few movies (Sun: 1, Kate: 0).

  2. There is so much more you can fill your day with when you ditch those screens. We took walks before and after every meal, sat in the sunshine, danced on the sundeck, and swam in the water.

  3. It is so much easier to be present in every moment of the day when you don't have a device in your face. And not having good access meant not having to ask for that undivided attention.

  4. The more painful it is to use a device, the less one will use it.

 So, while I don't think you need to hop on a cruise ship to ditch screens, I do think it is worth a hiatus for everyone under the roof now and then. What have you got to lose? Even if you simply place a few boundaries around certain days or even just times of the day, using the following question can help guide your next steps: "What is the change you want to see?"


Where to start?

Here are a few ideas that we have employed in our own house over the last decade:




Here are a few ideas that we have employed in our own house over the last decade:

  • DEVICE RESTRICTIONS: we have a "no device" rule at the dinner table. I want eyes up and conversation active - it's one of the few times of the day where we can catch up as a family!

  • BEDROOMS ARE FOR SLEEPING: I also practice having "no devices" in the bedroom - my phone only comes with me if the teens are out on the town(with two away in college, it's rare these days). I'm also advocating for the removal of the TV in our master bedroom*. While it's nice when you're sick in bed, for me, it is be nothing more than a time suck.

  • CHARGING STATIONS: We have a charging station in the kitchen that was strictly enforced before homework became device-required for middle/high school.

I have friends and clients who have followed screen detox protocols like the one listed above, have screen restrictions one weeknights for the kids, practice a no-device rule for non-public areas of the house (i.e. - not in the bedrooms), or who avoid screens when possible. In today's modern age, it can be a challenge to completely remove screens without becoming a Buddhist monk in a mountainside monastery. Like our own little unintentional experiment, those who have implemented screen fasts or boundaries have never complained of the increased peace under the roof once they let go of the habit. Think about it. If you could implement one small change to decrease screen time in your life, where would you start?

*Side note: While I managed to avoid a TV in the bedroom for the first 20 years we were together, Mr. BigStuff thought it would be great to add one to the décor while I was away one weekend - the last 2 years were 2 years too many. I love that man and his kind gestures, but we both agree that this was not the best decision for us. Anyone want a 5-6 year old flat screen? #nobodysperfect