The Independent has a story about one mom’s decision to bar the use of technology in her family’s house for six months.
Susan Maushart was becoming anxious about the amount of her time her three children spent transfixed by technology. Her son was hooked on his gaming console, one daughter was addicted to social networking sites, and the other was constantly using her laptop.
“My concern,” she says, “was that we had ceased to function as a family. We were just a collection of individuals who were very connected outwards – to friends, business, school and sources of entertainment and information. But we simply weren’t connecting with one another in real space and time in any sort of authentic way.”
Maushart, now 52, decided to take action. She initiated what she describes as an “experiment in living” and banned all technology at home for six months. Her family was to discover life without computers, the internet, games consoles, TV or mobile phones (although, kowtowing to the realities of the modern world, her teenagers were able to access screens at their friends’ houses and in school).
The children were mainly okay with it, they adapted well, and many of Maushart’s hopes were met: They ate together a lot, talked more, and played games. They went to movies and restaurants. One daughter began studying in the library, and the son took up his saxophone again.
Anni, Bill and Sussy confronted boredom – something that they were previously unfamiliar with because of their endless access to online entertainment. They found out that it made them resourceful. Indeed, their mother thinks boredom is fundamentally important in terms of creativity: “If nothing’s wrong, you’re never motivated to change, to move out of that comfort zone.”
She also believes that modern teenagers are more accustomed to it than they realise. “Today, kids are often low-level stimulated when they’re online,” she says. “It’s kind of like running a low-grade fever. I draw the parallel to never really being hungry either. They snack so much that they’re not ready for a proper meal. That lack of boundaries, that ‘blobbiness’ … it’s not a good way to live.”
Maushart says in the article that it was other parents who protested her decision the most, fearing her teens would “become either ‘social outcasts or idiots’.” Some even thought Maushart had suffered a nervous breakdown.
Although she stuck to her guns for six months, technology was eventually allowed back in the house. Maushart struggles with its continued effects on family life, but says that there have been permanent changes from the six-month experiment. She advises parents to set good boundaries and to take “technology vacations.”