Media Fasts & No-Tech Tuesdays: Connect With Your Tech-Obsessed Kid
Remember what it was like to get your first car? These days, that’s exactly how kids feel when they get their first kids phone. To many kids, a phone represents freedom.
The following article is from national speaker Jonathan McKee, author of over 25 books, and most importantly, husband and father of three. This particular article is one in a series of articles from his incredibly practical book, “52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid.”
The Media-Fast Fulfillment
My Two oldest kids, both in high school at the time, decided to go on a missions trip. The trip required some rigorous training, including a “fast.” This was no ordinary fast. The leader challenged the kids to give up media and technology.
Shouldn’t be a big deal, right?
Wrong. We’re talking about the lifeblood of today’s teen and tween. Recent studies reveal that teens spend almost nine hours a day soaking in media and technology (eight hours, fifty-six minutes to be exact). Tweens, kids ages wight through twelve, spend six hours a day (five hours, fifty-five minutes). With that in mind, consider what a media fast requires of a teenager.
Sound crazy? Well, it gets crazier. The leader of this trip challenged our kids to give up all entertainment media and technology for an entire month.
Yeah! Kids were freaking out. Many reconsidered whether they even wanted to go on the trip.
Then the leader took it one step further: he challenged all the kids’ parents to do the same thing.
I wasn’t excited about it, but our family went for it.
At first, we were all whining. No Internet (other than for homework or work required by school), no texting, no music, no movies- nothing. It was amazing how quiet it was around the house.
As Yoda says, we had to “unlearn what we had learned.” I’d get in the car and turn on the music, My kids would say, “Dad! No music.”
They had to remind me!
But then something began happening. Talking!
Lots of talking (there was nothing else to do).
Each night, we’d break out a deck of cards or a board game, or head out on a walk around the neighborhood. It was fun. It was like camping but in our own house. It was like living out a zombie apocalypse…except with no dead people walking around.
We dialogued more that month than we had in the six months prior.
The experience was life-changing. One month of hanging out as a family around the fireplace, reading, playing games, laughing- it was truly amazing.
Am I recommending that you force your family to fast from entertainment media and technology for a month? Not at all. Your suggestion would probably be met with laughter, followed by a brief silence, the, “Wait…you were serious?”
The media fast we tried was an amazing experience, but it was one that the teenagers oned and that had the momentum and support of the entire youth group. More than seventy teenagers did it together, and they still complained.
But it became an impactful experience for all.
It’s been interesting to see people get a taste of this, in much smaller doses, across the world. I’ve read countless articles of families, schools, and even businesses that declared a “tech-free” day to cleanse their digital palate. Some have tried several days or a week, and I always hear the same results: “It was difficult at first, but the experience was eye-opening.”
Why not give it a try? Google this: “teens media fast no smartphone for a day” and then click around at the articles you discover. Then, at dinner one night, engage your kids in a discussion. Ask them about one of these articles and get them to share their thoughts. But this time, also read a little bit about the media fast and ask, “What do you think? Is this a good idea for some kids to try?” (Start with a question about kids in general.)
Then don’t be afraid to challenge them: “Do you think you guys could go an entire day without entertainment media or technology?”
Don’t expect your kids to jump on board immediately. This may take several conversations and time for the principle to really sink in. But then try it. Make it happen for a day, or maybe even a couple of days. See what happens. It may be one of the best things your kids ever experience.
For our family and our church, the experience was truly life-changing. So much so that when the fast was over, we actually missed it.
And that’s when we began the next practice I want to share with you:
The No-Tech Tuesday Tactic
After our family went one month without entertainment media or technology, we were damaged goods. That fast made a sizable dent in our lives.
We couldn’t revert back to media slavery.
So we decided to bring it back. Not for a month (no way- that was too difficult), but for one night a week.
That was the beginning of “No-Tech Tuesdays.”
No-Tech Tuesdays didn’t start until after school on Tuesday afternoons, It was, more accurately No-Tech Tuesday afternoons and evenings. It was one evening a week with no TV, no Internet, no texting, no music- nothing.
It was fantastic.
Funny, when our kids would have friends over on a Tuesday, they would tell them, “Oh, it’s No-Tech Tuesday.”
It was always fun to see their friends’ faces.
Our kids’ friends tried it, they got a taste of the good life: conversation, board games, reading, throwing the ball for the dog outside until he’d eventually tire. They would often say, “I wish my family would try this!”
It was interesting how this dynamic evolved as my kids grew older. For example, when my two oldest kids were off at college and my youngest was playing “only child” for two years, we’d often shoot the older kids a picture of the three of us chilling in the family room, reading by the fire. My middle daughter would immediately text back, “I miss No-Tech Tuesdays!” Once she even said, “I wish we did that more than one night a week.”
Were we legalistic about Tuesdays? Not at all. Some weeks our schedule messed it up and we’d switch it to another night or skip it altogether. But most weeks, Tuesday was the day.
No-Tech Tuesdays provided a true break from the bonds of technology. It helped us realize how much we all became enslaved to our phones, our TV shows, and other forms of entertainment media. Most of all, it allowed us to focus on face-to-face communication and the community people can experience when they hang out together, uninterrupted by the vibration in their pocket.
Consider trying it in your home.
Don’t enforce it; suggest it. Google an article about today’s kids attempting a media fast and share it with your kids. Ask, “Why do you think this is so difficult for young people today?” Once your kids attempt to assure you it’s not hard, challenge them. Get the whole family to opt in.
You won’t be disappointed.
Questions to Ponder:
- How would your kids respond if they were challenged to fast from media and technology for a day? For a week? For a month?
- What about you? How would your respond?
- If, hypothetically, you tried it…what would it look like in your home?
- Do you think your kids would be open to trying a “no-tech” afternoon and evening? How can you bring it up?
- When will you try it?
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