How one mom unplugged her family for six months
Could your family go six months without technology? How about one week? One day?
Susan Maushart lived out what the Associated Press called "every parent's fantasy" when she turned off technology in the house she shared with her three teenagers. No computers, no cell phones, no video games, no television.
Other families are doing the same. Diane Broadnax put her family on a five-day tech "crash diet." Her husband Lonnie says, "I immediately thought she's lost her mind." But the experiment brought her family closer together -- even though they gladly returned to technology when the five days were up.
Maushart wrote a book about the experience, "The Winter of our Disconnect," in which she explains:
There were lots of reasons why we pulled the plug on our electronic media . . . or, I should say, why I did, because heaven knows my children would have sooner volunteered to go without food, water, or hair products. At ages fourteen, fifteen, and eighteen, my daughters and my son don’t use media. They inhabit media. And they do so exactly as fish inhabit a pond. Gracefully. Unblinkingly. And utterly without consciousness or curiosity as to how they got there.
Her youngest daughter, age 14, was so unhappy about being thrown out of the tech fishbowl that she moved in with her father (Maushart's ex-husband) for six weeks rather than unplug. She eventually moved back in with her mom. That wasn't the only challenge, Maushart writes:
The Winter of Our Disconnect started out as a kind of purge. It ended up as so much more. Long story short: our digital detox messed with our heads, our hearts, and our homework. It changed the way we ate and the way we slept, the way we “friended,” fought, planned, and played. It altered the very taste and texture of our family life. Hell, it even altered the mouthfeel. In the end, our family’s self-imposed exile from the Information Age changed our lives indelibly—and infinitely for the better.
"We discovered the lost art of eye contact, conversation," Maushart told TODAY's Meredith Vieira. Her youngest daughter said the experiment was worth it -- but she wouldn't want to do it again, at least not while she's in high school.
What do you think of this no-tech experiment? What sort of limits do you place on technology in your home -- and what do you think would happen if you forced your family to quit, cold-turkey?
This article originally appeared on the Today show website on Jan. 26, 2011.