Last week we conducted a techsperiment on eliminating gadgets from our family time: we swore off using iPhones, iPads and computers from the time we got home (5 or 6) until the time the kids were asleep (8 or 9). We did pretty well during the week, and discovered that our family time was more enjoyable and our kids asleep much earlier when we stayed offline for a few focused hours.
But our weekend was another story. Friday night saw us home late and geeking out; Sunday night we were back online again. And the kids stayed up much later as a result.
What I’m supposed to say now is that we’ve seen the light. We’ve looked the big, bad technology monster square in the face, and seen the terrible perverting effect it’s having on our family life and sleep hygiene. Now that we now the truth we’re buying a safe with a timed lock, and putting all our devices into it each night so that we won’t be tempted to go online until the kids fall asleep.
The truth is that I couldn’t live with my devices in a lock box. I plugged in on Friday night because I was feeling cranky and stressed out, and messing around on my computer is my favourite way to unwind. I plugged in on Sunday evening so that I could meet a Monday deadline and still get to bed on time myself.
In real life there are days that are stressful, there are days with deadlines and there are days when the Tony Awards are on and you have to track the Twitter stream in real time. Categorical rules about when we can and can’t be online aren’t going to work for our family, in which the web is not (just) a distraction, but a part of our professional and social lives.
But our techsperiment gave us the structure we needed to step back and look truthfully at the impact tech has on our evenings at home. Consciously going without the net for a just a few hours a night turned out to be mostly better for us and for our kids. So while we’ll allow for some lapses, we will stick with a new norm: no devices during family evenings.
And we’ll also embrace a new tool, which is to use techspermiments as a way of evaluating the role of social media and tech tools in our daily life. I’ll keep you posted on our next adventure.