It has been a crazy couple of weeks for us. When I wrote Digitox, I hoped to help a few other families break their internet addictions and get closer together – I wasn’t really prepared for some of the amazing things that have happened to us, and the kind reception the book is getting. When the weekend rolls around, we really do appreciate the opportunity for a rest, and even with Ben and Gabriel revising we’re still managing to take tech free time together.
We’ve been on BBC Radio Oxford as “Family Of The Week”, on Jack FM, featured on the centre pages of a national newspaper, and I was even invited to speak at a Grazia Magazine unplugged event in London on the hottest day of the year.
So our tech free together time has become even more precious. Last weekend we had one of Jessica’s friends staying with us, and as ever there’s the debate on whether or not their phone is allowed during our tech curfew – mostly we find that as we don’t use ours, friends don’t use theirs and this was no exception.
The challenge we faced was the heat – with temperatures pushing 31 degrees we headed to visit Caroline’s parents in Warwick, not only for the kind offer of lunch, but also because the River Avon runs through a nearby park with an outdoor splash area and a playground. Noah took his scooter, the girls took their roller skates and we took money for ice-cream.
Given sunshine, exercise, free food and water and a plentiful supply of riverside benches there is very little requirement for a smartphone other than to take pictures and we didn’t feel the need to chase virtual creatures around the park on Pokemon (Noah), or scan for incoming weather (that would be me), or snap chat friends (Jessica).
One of our tips for stress free internet withdrawal is to remove the family from the house when you start trying to do it – and summer months are a great opportunity to try this. Sunny days out can persuade even the most depressed teenagers that there is more to live for than their screen – although last weekend both Ben and Gabriel stayed at home doing A’ Level revision and art homework respectively.
And yes, Ben was on the internet revising for some of the day – because sometimes common sense and practicality is more important that an outright dictatorial decree – and I trust him at this point not to be into social media, snapchat and gaming when he should have his head down.
As for Gabe – he finished his artwork before we got back, and when we opened the door he was sat in the lounge playing his guitar and practicing a new song that he’d written.
It says on the back of the book that we’ve found ourselves happier, healthier, safer and smarter since we started our Digitox – every weekend reinforces that, and every weekend I’m glad we went through that initial pain to get where we are now.
The months ahead are the perfect time to get unplugged from the internet and plugged back into each other – there’s a whole bunch of ideas in the book to make this easier on yourself and your family, together with some research and some funny stories about our own experience. Please give it a go – you’ll never look back.