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SheKnows Parenting challenge: Turn off the tech

How many cell phones, computers, TVs and tablets do you have at home? And how many are plugged in and in use at the same time?

If you and your kids are texting instead of talking and clicking instead of communicating, we have a challenge for you: why not turn it all off? While that may sound impossible, we’re not suggesting permanently. Try turning off the tech for an hour, a day or even a weekend and see what happens. Take our SheKnows parenting challenge and unplug like one brave family did.

One family… 20 gadgets

Claire Haas, VP of education for the Kiddie Academy, mother of 11-year-old Noah, and 10-year-old Clarke, and her husband, Fred, bravely signed up for the SheKnows Turn off The Tech challenge. With six cell phones, five televisions, three laptop computers, two iPod Touches, one desktop computer, one tablet and two Xboxes between them, they knew they needed to unplug. But for how long could they do it? “Our original goal was the entire Memorial Day weekend, but it quickly modified to be ‘significant daylight hours’ during those three days,” says Haas.

Why turn off the tech?

“I wanted to participate because we are always on some type of technology. Perfect example: My husband posted a ‘family time’ picture to Facebook. It looked like this: TV on, husband on phone, son on tablet, daughter on iPod, and I was on my phone (I would show you the pic, but I was in my pajamas). I think even the dog was watching TV. Now, with that said, we were all together in one room — if that counts for anything!”

Getting the kids to go tech-free

“They freaked out! Immediately they began rattling off all the necessary uses for technology — The NCAA lacrosse championships were being televised, the season finale of their favorite show was on, what about Facebook updates over the long holiday weekend, etc.”

Turning off the tech won’t be that hard. Or will it?

“I was overly confident heading into the challenge. I really didn’t realize how dependent we are on technology — for everything! It is kind of like when you start counting calories; you really don’t realize how much you consume until you write it down. We (I) am much more aware now of our technology use.”

Unplug so you can plug back in

Haas says she and her family learned many important lessons during the experiment. “We realize we often use technology as white noise. I am also more aware of technology now, and find that I turn it off without the challenge. It has started some good conversations at the dinner table. Now I find that we are challenging each other, like: I can go all day without checking Facebook, or I can go without playing video games for the rest of the night. That is great!”

While the gadgets were disconnected, Haas and her family reconnected. “We did some gardening (also known as fun, family time or chores), went to a family party, took a walk in the woods, we even played Monopoly (by that point we were desperate to fill time without turning on the TV).”

Family bonding: Trying something new together >>

Want your family to Turn off the Tech too?

If you’re reading this article and it’s hitting home, you can try turning off the tech too. Psychotherapist Barbara Nietlich suggests taking these four steps before unplugging:

  1. Really the time and explain to your family why you have the desire to try this.
  2. Engage your family in planning a weekend without electronics. Allow a collaborative decision to be made as to which activities you will participate in while the tech is off.
  3. Make it fun. Have a contest to see who can turn off the most amount of electronics in the quickest period of time.
  4. Create an incentive. For children, incentives work wonders. Create a reward for children who are able to refrain from turning on/playing with electronics.

Read more about technology and families

Mom vs. Dad: Technology and your kids
How to help your kids break the screen habit
Tech savvy or teen foolish?

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