Digital Detox For Kids (And Adults Too)

If your kids are anything like mine, they live on their electronics. This is mostly due to me, as I work for a software company and we have every gadget you could think of and several of each in some cases.

Starting in January, I began limiting my children’s devices, by taking them away entirely for one week a month. To say it was a not a challenge at first would be a lie, it was not difficult, but it was a challenge none the less.

First, it’s important to understand that in today’s world none of us can get by without any screen time, even children. All of my children (minus the 4-year-old) require using a Chromebook for school. As a result, it’s not realistic to remove electronics 100% during the week, but the weekends are a different story.

Before we removed their devices, we prepared the children about two weeks in advance. We let them know what was coming so that when it did happen, it wasn’t a complete shock. We made sure that during dinner time, the oldest two did not have their cell phones anywhere near them, that included me and my wife as well.

Even for that short amount of time around the table, I realized that my cell phone owned me. I felt the need to check it for work and personal email. It hit me; we no longer own the technology; it owns us. I knew at that moment we needed to set aside time without electronics in order to gain a part of our lives back.

As I sat there later that evening, I watched my boys use their devices. They used it for YouTube, SnapChat, Facebook, Gaming, and many other things. It was consuming them, so I knew giving up a week a month was a perfect start.

I didn’t consider us to be entirely absorbed by devices, as we always set aside time on the weekend to spend time with our boys (See My Post on Family Time Here). What I didn’t consider was the amount of time it was eating away out our daily social interactions.

The first day was probably the hardest. The kids realized I was serious. My 9-year-old took it the worst, but he already suffered from social anxiety before he got into video games. The older two, not so bad, mostly just bored, so they nagged us a bit and argued here and there. The second day got better, so on and so forth.

On the second day, my 9-year-old got home from school, finished his homework and went outside. He called for the other kids, and they played for a good hour or so, and when he was done with that, he came in and took the legos out of the closest. For the next six days, that’s how it went, and when he didn’t want to build, he read his books, and in the following months, he started to draw.

As far as the older two go, we had more engaging conversations around school work, general life, and their sports. Later in the week they took out our soccer net and bocce ball set and played a few games in the back yard. I knew then it was the right thing to do, and our 4-year-old just followed suit.

Oh, and during those weeks without devices, there are no screaming matches about who killed who in fortnite, or hollering from room to room for help on some level or hearing some YouTube video blasting as they walk by us to gorge out in the fridge.

Now that we have been doing this for about four months now, I have learned a few things that I believe anyone who is going to attempt this should try, or should at least consider and understand.

Tips For Detoxing Your Kids

Show Them You Can Do It:

If you don’t do it already, let your children see you put down your devices. If you spend all of your time on your devices how can your children possibly take you seriously? When work is done, put the phone away for a few hours.

Leave The Phone In The House:

It’s okay if the kids or you miss a phone call or a text message. When you head to the backyard for a game of tag, catch, kickball, or anything else around the house; leave the phone inside. I found the kids to be more engaged and attentive to the activities around them. Also when you go on longer journeys, you should enforce a rule that the kids leave their devices home.

No Phones In The Bedroom:

This was one of the best things we did and continue daily. When we started our first week of detox, I made the kids leave their phones on the counter before bed.

By doing this, they have gone to sleep much faster, and we can tell they are much more rested when they wake up in the morning. As a result, my wife and I did a similar thing. We started leaving our phones across the room on the dresser so that we would not be bothered at night. It has helped tremendously.

DAD TIP: I will admit there are times when I get up and go over to pick up the phone, I’ve found that it helps to lay it face down so I can’t see the notification blinks.

Explore Your Skills/Talents:

One of the things we did was to have our children work on some of the things they enjoyed and were good at, as an example, our 9-year-old loves to draw, but when he was on an Xbox or PC, it was almost like he forgot he liked it. So, we focused on having him draw when he said he was bored. You could always get a book too

Sports/Exercise:

If your children don’t play sports, it may be a good thing to have them put the devices down and get some exercise in. When the weather was nicer the last two months I pushed them out the doors, just getting outside and running around with friends and family are great for social interaction.

Go Outside:

Get outdoors and explore what’s around you, look for places that are kid-friendly (many are dog-friendly as well). There are a lot of walking and fishing trails near us, and playgrounds too. If you can’t make it to a park or don’t have one near you. Heading outside for a game of catch, or just to read a book helps.

DAD TIP: Did you know that getting out in the sun can help reduce breast, colon, prostate and lung diseases? Don’t believe me see the statement from below and check it out here on WebMD.

” Too much time outside can raise your chances of skin cancer, but people who live in places that don’t get much sunlight may be more likely to have other types of the disease, including breast, colon, prostate, and lung. Their odds of getting other serious conditions, like multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, may be higher, too. “

Schedule Downtime:

We found it best to get into a routine, which is why we did one week a month. It is much easier to maintain when you have set times. We also have a nighttime curfew as well. An hour and a half before bedtime the devices must go away. Check out this study from the Sleep Foundation about how electronics disrupt sleep.

DAD TIP: We had allowed our teenage son to use his phone on the downtime week when there was a significant event at school, or when going out with friends; however he must select another day to give up. I have also set Do Not Disturb on my phone. This to ensure family time is faimly time.

Remove Them During Dinner:

Dinner should be meant for bonding time, and when you bring the devices to the table, you lose part of that. Leave them out the counter, some of the best conversations come from the dinner table.

I hope this helps, please feel free to leave comments for what your family might do?


3 thoughts on “Digital Detox For Kids (And Adults Too)”

  1. I agree that people are chained to their phones. I hate when we go out to dinner and I see people on their phones instead of talking to those right in front of them. I think time limits is a good idea to place on children. I see parents with children as young as 2 have purchased kids tablets so the kids can watch movies to keep them occupied. Personally I think this is pure laziness on the part of the parents.

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