Internet free: A Family detox
Last Summer we decided to attempt a week long family digital detox. As a travel and parenting blogger with a video game developer for a husband we’ve naturally raised tech savvy and curious kids. We’ve both read that article about how Apple’s Steve Jobs restricted his kids’ tech use and kicked themselves for giving in to the iPad. Unlike Steve Jobs, we have let our kids have iPads, it’s amazing what they can build in Minecraft and exciting to watch them work on it as a team together, but it quickly becomes all consuming.
As people who work largely online, we have first-hand experience of the best and the worst of the internet and technology, so we’re keen to ensure our kids have the best balance of on and offline worlds. Rather than fight screen time battles we’ve found it’s easier to fill their lives with other distractions, so they forget about tech. But sometimes what’s needed is a full family reset. A week off tech.
So, we booked the most remote cottage we could find in Wales, in a valley surrounded by hills and sheep. It came with a supply of board games, jigsaws and books - joyful reminders of our own childhood holidays pre technology.
I’ve spent exactly half my life with the internet and half without, the internet is how I make my living, but it has certainly taken its toll on me at times. I love my blog and as a travel blogger I love taking photos of our travels and sharing images with the wider world, but I had reached a point where I needed to see things for myself, to just be in the moment without needing to document it. On the way to Wales, we stopped to stock up on food and magazines, so I picked up one that came with wool and crochet hook.
I love that I mainly have mental pictures of our break, watching a ladybird crawl through the dewy grass while I attempted to remember yoga in the garden. Puzzled sheep watching me do yoga. My daughter and I sat on the bench together in the sunshine as I taught her to knit. Watching my children make clay rabbits in the garden.
Children outdoors naturally find their own distractions. After a little bit of moaning about walking out the cottage door and up into the hills, amongst the sheep in the drizzle, complaints soon gave way to new forms of entertainment, finding clay in the river bank and bringing it home to model with, finding a poorly rabbit in the hedge near the cottage and taking it food each day.
I loved the conversations we had while ‘adventuring’ - never tell a child they are going on a walk, always an adventure - it was a chance to talk about things that don't crop up in the same way when you are all plugged in - history, nature, the solar system, the meaning of life, what they want to be when they grow up and plenty of silly stuff too.
We spent two afternoons crabbing in Aberdovey. My husband, the dog and I lolled on the grass watching the boats, enjoying doing absolutely nothing for once, instead of checking for work emails - being self-employed can make taking a break tricky - while the kids were completely and utterly consumed by the need to catch just one more crab. I only took a handful of photos for once, but it felt like they captured our week perfectly.
My experience has taught me that while we have been busy trying to solve the ‘problems’ of parenthood and keep kids occupied, we’ve deskilled ourselves and lost some of the best bits, the deep conversations, the shared experiences, even the sibling car arguments that become the stuff of family legend. Tech has its place, but it’s all about balance. It’s easy to become over reliant on it, when you take it away you realise you can parent without it. Our week of digital detox really helped to reset us.
I surprised myself too. Without the distraction of the internet I completed a crochet project and back at home I am two thirds of the way through a giant blanket. The yoga stuck too, I take more breaks from the screen to do a quick sun salutation.
It stayed with us as a family; in December we visited Lapland and decided to leave the iPads behind again. We secretly packed one DS in case of long journey meltdown emergencies, but it only came out once. We chatted and read to each other on the plane and it’s the closest we’ve felt as a family for a long time, so much talking, cuddling, no arguments and a truly shared experience.
Give it a go with your family - you might just surprise yourselves too!