Friday, January 20, 2012

No-Screen Night

In part inspired by a podcast entitled "Alive Enough," Andrew and I decided to dub Thursdays our "No-Screen Night."  In the podcast, Krista Tippett interviews, Sherry Turkle, author of "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other."  Sherry Turkle directs the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.  She talks about how in her research, she has been surprised to find that children are feeling alienated from their parents because of their use of technology.  Surprising, isn't it?  Don't we usually think of children and teenagers being the ones with the technology addictions?

Before listening to this podcast, I thought that other people were the ones with the screen addictions.  I don't really do facebook, I only follow a couple of blogs, I don't spend that much time on news or other websites, so I don't really have to worry.  Right?  Oops.

Turkle emphasizes leading an "examined life" with the use of our technology.  What is it really for?  How would it be best used in my life?  She recommended setting boundaries and limitations for ourselves and our children, so we can keep our technology use to where it is useful to us, and not where it is preventing us from being truly present with those around us.

Here are some changes we have made in our family:
  • No-Screen Night every Thursday.  Computers, iPads, phones, etc. off.  No exceptions (It's been awesome!  Thursday read-a-thons are way better than whatever else we were doing).
  • One weekend night is also screenless
  • No screens at the table, if there's anyone sitting with you
  • I keep the computer off until the boys are in nap/quiet time (after lunch)
  • The boys only have 15 mins of "computer time" (or iPad) after they've had a little "school time" (which happens after nap/quiet time).
  • No phones in the car.  We're still working on this one.  But when you're all together in a confined space, it's perfect conversing time!
What has helped you in your families keep technology at bay?


  1. Obviously I completely agree with the approach. It's been amazing to see how dependent I am on the screen, when I all of the sudden don't have it. Without them I wrestle more with the boys, read more books, and get to bed on time! Confession: I used to kind of dread no-screen night because I wanted to either have fun or get stuff done. But I have way more fun and get way more done without them--at least a couple times a week!

  2. We haven't formally set any goals yet, but have been discussing it more and more. I have started leaving my own laptop at school in the evenings so that the temptation is not there. However, there is an issue with this that I have. The vast majority of my books are digital as well as my journal. But I still feel like I'm alienating myself more when I read a book on my phone than a tangible book. There is also a greater likelihood of getting distracted since emails, texts, etc. pop up on the same devices. It's definitely a topic worth discussing.

  3. This is brilliant! We went to visit someone a while ago and it was like everyone was on their own little digital device -- the parents were on their androids, the kids were on computers, wii's, and their Nintendo DSs. It's frightening how pervasive this has gotten.

    I know this is cheesy, but it reminds me of a Star Trek episode... There was an episode where one of the officers was introduced to this electronic game while he was on leave. The game would tap into the brains of the people who played it, and altered their impulse control based on planting "rewards" into the player's sensory inputs... The officer took the game onto the ship, and before you knew it everyone was addicted to this game, and they were about to be taken over! (Don't worry, Data saved them all!)

    It is of course a little exaggerated, but really technology is everywhere, and if we're not careful we can get that consumed. I don't want my children seeing me on the computer or my phone all the time, and I certainly don't want them on those devices all the time either. Thank you, thank you for such a wonderful post!

  4. Really great ideas, Ariel. Our favorite family times are when we are out exploring the wilderness --- thinking about it now, I'm sure a big part of that is that there are no screens or cell phone reception.

    I'm really grateful for what our screens offer us in the way of information and communication! But since there is such a big real world to explore out there, we are always making a choice between the two.

  5. Sounds like an interesting podcast. I'll be sure to check it out. Thanks!

    As far as screens go, a formally designated night off or two sounds like a great idea to me. I have been so grateful not to have a TV. I already don't get everything done without the potential distraction. I'm sure I could be even more organized and get a few more things done if we rid ourselves of the computer a couple evenings a week. Thinking about this.