It’s amazing how we can watch our long-lost childhood replay through our own children. Case in point: Saturday morning television.
Granted, my daughter isn’t quite old enough to understand what the hell is going on when she watches Sesame Street, but she’s still glued to the television set when it comes on Saturdays.
And sure, Saturday morning cartoons are basically a thing of the past. But, there is a new variety of programming sure to entertain the little ones while daddy tries to wake himself up with his second (more like fourth) cup of coffee (with bourbon).
Saturdays at the Cataldo household now include a callback to the 1980s with kids shows for the first few hours of the day. It’s a steady dose of Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train and even a little Paw Patrol sprinkled in between. My daughter kind of stares at them for a few minutes before getting back to whatever block is truly holding her attention.
OK, so confession: It’s really just my wife and me watching these kids’ shows. Whatever. Don’t be judgy. I miss being 6 years old and waking up early on the weekends to catch Muppet Babies and the Snorks. Anywho. The baby will eventually come around on this stuff, and when she does, it will be awesome. Until then, I’ll just kind of research the various options available to her from a children’s programming perspective.
While I’m not necessarily fond of starting the TV-watching habit this early, I’ll make an exception for shows that provide educational value. The challenge will be to avoid allowing the many different screens at my disposal to prevent them from becoming a crux and a fallback instead of actually stepping up to the plate and parenting and interacting with my child.
Unfortunately, too many of our fellow parental units have opted to take the easy way out.
Americans spend an average of 4 to 5 hours in front of the television sets per day. When you toss in the addition of the computer screen and the smartphone, that number doubles to almost 12 hours per day that are sucked into technology. Facebook. Netflix. Emails. TPS reports. It all grabs our attention and keeps us plugged in all damn day long. And it doesn’t help when the first thing we do when the kids get cranky is to reach for another screen to plop in front of their face and distract them.
Of course, you are reading this on a screen right now, so don’t worry about that stat until after you’ve read this entire piece. Thank ya kindly.
Let’s put an end to that. We must do better. A simple and routine digital detox from our non-stop technology can do the trick.
Starting now, our challenge to the young Jedi Knights of this group is to set aside one full day per week to unplug and go technology free. One day a week. Just one day a week. We urge to put down the damn cell phone. Turn off the TV. And go tech-free for a day.
Here are the rules:
- Pick one day per week and stick to it like an important meeting. This usually means planning on a regularly-scheduled day off for your unplugged day (like a Saturday or Sunday). From sun up to sun down, it’s all about being tech-free.
- Tech-free means tech-FREE: No TV. No cell phones. No technology. Obviously, you may need to have a phone around in case of emergencies, so exceptions can be made. Just try to go without the phone for as long as possible.
- This rule applies for the whole family. Unless there is an absolute emergency, Facebook and Snapchat and text messages can all wait a few hours.
Obviously, it has been far too long for many of us to actually have any ideas on how to do this whole day of unplugged. So let us provide some inspiration with a few thought-starters.
10 Ideas to Start a Digital Detox and Go Tech-Free
1) Talk to some people
Ever find yourself texting and Facebooking with the TV on and some random show playing in the background while your wife is sitting next to you doing the same damn thing? Yeah, we’re all guilty of this one. Here’s an idea: put the damn phones down. Shut off the TV (it’s probably a rerun or stupid reality TV anyway). Get off of SnapChat, Facebook and Twitter. Turn to each other and … talk. It’s this weird activity in which feelings and expressions are outwardly displayed through the use of unique sound patterns that form words. Human beings have been able to communicate utilizing these words and phrases for millennia. For some reason, we’ve decided to break from that pattern lately to text inside of actually talking. Try this collection of words that will help break the ice: “How was your day?”
2) Family game night (not video games, peeps)
We love our video game consoles here at DaddyMindTricks; so much so that Mark even wrote an obituary after the passing of his XBox 360. True story. And even though we’re all in on blasting pre-pubescent teens in a round of Call of Duty, this challenge is about going without technology, so your next round of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Gaming (MMORPG) warfare must wait … but your competitive spirit can still live on through old school board games. Crank out the Monopoly and the game of Life. It’s a great way to get the whole family involved, pass some time and have a bunch of fun.
3) Get some Vitamin D & Take a Walk
Grab the group, pack a bag and perhaps even some snacks and explore the neighborhood. Live in a boring area of town? No worries. Plan ahead of time and discover a new park or beach or locale where you can all enjoy some time as a family, while getting a new taste of your hood. Bonus points if you combine some of these ideas to make some food ahead of time and plan a picnic.
4) Make a Fort or Camp Out in the Backyard
No need to head to some campgrounds in the middle of nowhere to enjoy a night in nature. All you need is your backyard. Set up the usual camping fare with a tent and even a small fire, if you have the space and resources. Hang out among the stars with some hot cocoa and stories in front of the campfire. For the big city peeps, or those not really down with a night outside, no problem: Channel your inner-childhood and use pillows, sheets and furniture to create a huge fort or tent inside your own living room. You can still some hot cocoa and even s’mores to go along with your adventure.
5) Play a Sport
A simple game of catch or tossing the frisbee around will entertain the kids for hours, burn a few extra calories for you, and hopefully even tire out the kids so they pass out early and give mom and dad some alone time (which means mom and dad can use some of our at-home date night ideas we shared here). It doesn’t need to be elaborate, just grab a ball or anything you can toss around and head outside. Nothing to throw? Then play a good old fashion game of tag or hide and seek. Get creative with it and have some fun.
6) Read a Book
Start a little book club within the family and set a time each week for everyone to read and then share with the group their critiques of the current page-turner. It encourages a real dedication to reading for your kids, and helps you stay in line with one of the biggest rules of our New Dad Order. For a list of books you should be reading, click here.
7) Puzzle time
Find one of those almost impossible to put together 10,000 piece puzzles and take some time each week to divide and conquer that bad boy like a team. Take this to another level by actually creating your own puzzle out of a picture of your choosing with sites like Shutterfly. It can be a family portrait … or maybe a place the family recently visited for vacation … or maybe it’s a place you’d like to eventually take the family … doesn’t matter, just have fun with it.
8) Hit the Kitchen
From cookies to English Muffin Pizzas, there are a million and one different recipes you can create that will allow the kids to chip in, help out and even learn a thing or two about cooking up some culinary delights. A simple Google search or a quick check to Pinterest will get you started on simple ways and recipes that can get the entire family involved.
Talk about two for one here. You get out of the house without the need for technology and you get to give back to a worthy cause at the same time? Sounds like a recipe for win-win to me. Not to mention, chipping in for a worthy cause with the whole family instills a valuable lesson of philanthropy to the kids. By getting the entire clan involved, you’ll set a solid example as a role model for the Padawans.
10) Grill up some food
Got a grill? Got some skills? There are few things more manly than getting back to the primal roots of cooking meat over a fire. Invite some friends over, grab some beer, and find some things to grill up with the family. If you live in an apartment or just don’t have a grill, find a nearby beach or park that has a communal fire source and get to work.
Access to technology 24/7 is a tribute to how advanced our society has become. In many ways, it’s a terrific benefit that we enjoy in ways that we never even imagined during our youth – who remembers the damn rotary dial-up phones or the size of the first computer monitors? It’s obviously pretty awesome to know we can get a hold of anyone from anywhere with the press of a few smartphone buttons.
But, the continuous, non-stop use of this technology also comes brings a laundry list of issues. Keeping up with the goings on of your cousin’s latest relationship status on Facebook, the most mundane email request and the silly meme shared via group text is simply not sustainable.
Equally unsustainable is the idea of unplugging completely (how would you be able to read the knowledge bombs we drop on this site if you don’t plug in at all?). However if we don’t get away from it all and shut off the damn screens, we’re doomed to crack at some point. Prevent that implosion and set a positive example for the kids with a this one day per week dedication to a complete digital detox.
It’s only one freakin day, dude.
Now it’s YOUR turn. Chime in below in the comments and let us know what you do as a family to unplug and get away from technology.