The Winter of Our Disconnect is a great first-hand story about the author, Susan Maushart and her 3 teen-aged children, who “unplugged” for 6 months. She is a transplanted New Yorker, who lives in Perth, Australia with her kids (but not their father). She is also a journalist who was basically married to her iPhone. The idea for being “unplugged” for 6 months at a time came to her when she started to realize that her family was always plugged into sometime – and often more than one thing at a time.  Whether it be a laptop, cell phone, tv, iPod – they were always connected in some way to a device, but they were no longer connecting with each other. Sure, removing all technology from the house for 6 months may seem extreme (they could still use it outside of the home – i.e. a laptop or computer at school or the library) but the results of this experiment were pretty profound.

I do recommend you take a look at this book, I found it at my local library.  Here is the link to my Amazon affiliate account.  Read on if you’re not planning to read it yourself.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that it’s not just the story about life without technology in the home, she also did a great deal of research on the effects of technology and media on our lives, especially the research where children are concerned. Even children as young as 3 are in front of a screen for an average of 3 hours a day. Of course, this also includes time in front of a computer where many children are getting a head start on reading with some of the amazing programs available these days. Much of the research shows that the more time children and teens spend in front of a screen, the worse off they seem to be.  And the myth that they are better multi-taskers? It’s just that – a myth.  Turns out our brains can really only do one task at a time, so the “multi-tasker” is simply switching quickly from one task to another.  And in reality, none of the tasks are done very well.  What I have noticed in my life is that if I finish one task before starting on a second task, the first task is completed more quickly and more accurately.

Some of the best parts of the experiment were that her son, previously plugged into his computer playing online games every night, picked up his saxophone, started taking lessons and became quite gifted in playing jazz. He also developed a passion for reading and listening to jazz on – wait for it – records! Her oldest daughter found that it wasn’t as bad as she had imagined it to be, and she also found more time to read, cook and spend time with her younger sister. The youngest daughter found it the most challenging – she escaped to her father’s home for the first few months – but when she returned, the biggest change for her was the improvement in her sleeping habits. She basically used to fall asleep with her laptop – no laptop – no late night stimulation, better sleep.  And finally, as a family, they did grow closer, learned more about each other and created deeper relationships, that involved conversation.  For those of you who have teenagers, you can understand how difficult it can be to have actual conversations with your teenagers, so this was a big win.

Do you feel like you are too plugged in? Ever fall asleep with your iPhone or Blackberry in hand? Does your family spend the evenings in front of a screen or even several screens? I find that my husband and I often retreat to our own screens in the evening after dinner. We do take the time to sit and have dinner together, but shortly after, I’m in the office and he’s on WOW. My phone does get turned off at night now, and my laptop and playbook are shut down.

We’re going away for a long weekend after Thanksgiving (the Canadian one) and I have challenged myself and our friends to a techno-free weekend. No laptops, cell phones turn off as soon as we arrive, no TV or Playbook.  Should be a blast! We’re taking a bunch of board games to play and there are lots of activities nearby – including a day at the spa with my girlfriend while the husbands watch the kids.

I challenge you readers to a techno-free day, evening or weekend! Check in below if you’re up for it! Will you be able to switch off? I’ll share our experiences when we return.

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