Unplugged, Turned Off, and Tuned Out

Reading for unplugged times.

My family and I are addicted to technology especially my 5 year old who is bored in less than 5 seconds if we make him turn off his 3DS and play with … gasp … a toy.

Our boys get an hour of TV before going to daycare. An hour of TV when they get back from daycare. And, thankfully, they only get TV at daycare for special events tied to curriculum.

Sometimes they get a half hour (or more) of video game time or computer time. And those are on the days when I’m diligent and stick to the schedule. The weekends are a completely different situation; and not in a good way. That’s a lot of plugged in time for little dudes.

So it’s up to me to set the example and it’s hard. I didn’t realize how much I relied on my electronic interfaces.

I check Facebook and Instagram constantly. I hit refresh on my email every few minutes, hoping something new will pop up. I watch my blog stats real time, as if they’re changing so rapidly, while I watch TV. I have new blog posts in my Reader that need to be read and commented on. Then there’s Netflix and Hulu which allow me to watch entire seasons of shows back to back. There’s so much to see.

For my husband, it’s Words with Friends and a plethora of podcasts. We are always wirelessly wired.

Still trying to finish 2009 scrapbooks.

Can you relate? Maybe you have some other social media to keep up with like Twitter or Pinterest or Google Plus or Tumblr or fill in the blank … am I right?

Well, I’ve made a commitment to go on an electronics diet this summer. Notice I put a time limit on this “goal”. I am making an effort to consume a little less TV, video games, phone time, computer time, etc.

To support my diet, I’ve purchased a hardcopy book instead of loading up new fiction to my Kindle. I actually went to the bookstore with the boys and we all picked out new books. I can’t remember the last time I purchased a physical copy of a book.

But when I tell them to unplug and get a book, I can do the same … Life in these gaps of being unplugged is interesting.

I started with 20 minutes … we didn’t know what to do. We looked at each other but not in the eyes for fear we might spontaneously combust. I bit my nails and held my breath. We all watched the timer countdown the minutes. The boys cried, “Why?” at the highest decibels. We were all relieved for the 20 minutes to be over.

I didn’t plan well. It would have gone better if I had organized an activity to fill the time for the first go round … Now I know … I have a list of options they can do independently or as a group. Some are fun and others not so much …

  • Play outside
  • Read a book
  • Scrapbook (we have vacation pictures)
  • Board games (we just started Pokemon trading card game)
  • Chores (we are working on folding laundry)
  • Family conversation

Activities, like these, where they can flex their creative muscles or just relax and unwind from the barrage of information and images that are always coming at us.

It’s important to note that we aren’t “making up” that “lost” 20 minutes in other parts of the day. We’re cutting back.

Slowly I am increasing the time of being turned off and tuned out. And slowly, we are adjusting to being without our gadgets. The boys know that unplugged moments are going to be part of our lives.

It’s getting easier … I’m realistic. I’ll never do away with gadgets in our home. Like I said, we’re junkies. And it’s not a bad thing but moderation is key.

The funny thing? When I pick up my iPhone or open my computer, it’s waiting for me. Patiently waiting for me. I’ve been pinged or notified that something happened. I didn’t miss it. I only delayed it.

Been working on this blanket for way too long. Before my boys were born.

And, being unplugged means I have interesting things to post or share, or so I think, because I took the break to live a little life.

I’ve noticed that my boys, who no longer take naps, are a little less crabby when bedtime rolls around. There is a lot more conversation about characters they’ve made up and stories they want to write or play out as live action. Less is more in terms of gadgets especially as it relates to creativity.

I’ve also noticed that as a Momma, I’m a little less stressed out. I don’t respond to their meltdowns with frustration because I’m not harried or weighted down by being connected like I’m on life support.

So tell me, how do you intentionally unplug? What would you do if you weren’t plugged in? What changes do you notice when you’ve had a break from being connected?




  1. Oh, this is brilliant! I grew up in a house with the TV always on, and my partner and I don’t particularly watch TV unless it’s DVDs or something. The funny thing is, my parents still always have the TV on and we see how easily we get sucked in. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

    For me? I have to make specific intentions to unplug, like you said. I grab a book or my paper journal and sit away from my computer, if I’m taking deliberate time away from devices. When I’ve taken a break, it’s a feeling of release, like a tension wire breaking. My eyes are less strained and I feel like there’s something for me to say.

  2. Loved reading this! We have ventured into the unplugged sphere, daintily tipping our toes into uncharted waters. Unfortunately, that’s all we’ve done so far. But I’m gonna keep working on it! We don’t watch TV, but we do watch old movies. And, oh – the monitor calls to us! Thanks for this posting!!!

  3. I still love to read books in hardcopy. I have a Kindle Fire because a good friend bought me one for my birthday (total shocker). I’d worried I’d ordered it by mistake with Amazon’s one-click feature. But we had a big storm last night and the power went out for several hours. Okay, so they Kindle came in handy at that point. But I definitely agree with you, it’s good to unplug for a while. We get so caught up in technology. What I hate seeing most is friends sitting together but all heads are bent, looking at their phones as if the people in front of them don’t count. Makes me sad. So, with so much in life, technology has its good points and bad.

    • I’ve been guilty of bending over my phone while out with others. It is sad. Technology has it pros and cons … Hopefully, we all can find balance in using it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. How would you feel if I told you that I feel too plugged in sometimes? I too, am constantly checking the computer, hoping for something personal or wonderful to read or respond to (i don’t often find something great, but that doesn’t keep me from trying). I find that going outside makes a huge difference: reading a book on the porch, chatting with Eric or doing something physical. Unplugging is a constant challenge in our house. I’ve also noticed, as you have, how differently the kids behave when they have had too much media time–they get creatively lazy and much more “bored.” We’ve now learned when we need to have a “media free” week (for them, not me!). And we also have rules about when games/phones/tv/computers and when they are not. We’re trying to teach the value of personal relationships and creativity over media. It’s a never-ending battle.
    Be encouraged! You’ve taken the first most major step in the right direction!

    • I appreciate you sharing. Maybe I need porch. Trust me, I didn’t expect to benefit from unplugging as much as the boys do. But I’ve found that it helps me feel creatively energized. Ideas come when I have a blank mind or at least a less active mind. I had a great idea about the prologue and the first chapter today. One I hadn’t even considered before. I’ll tell you all about it on Thursday. LOL! Thanks for your support … we should do an unplugged play date for the kids.

  5. I completely agree! I often feel glued to my laptop and smart phone. Getting outside or into the outdoors has been my way of unplugging and turning off. It actually makes me feel more “tuned in” to both my surroundings and what I’m feeling on any given day. So refreshing.

    • The great outdoors is a wonderful place to unplug. I wish I like being out more than I am. Sunny weather helps but I usually have my phone on me. Sigh. Baby steps. Thanks for sharing!

  6. You are brave. I just reviewed a book on this very subject. Without kids, I have an advantage and a disadvantage in the tech area. .Advantage: I can’t mastert a lot of the technology-hacker stuff ( a lot of time I wish I could borrow an 11 year old to fix and teach) which means I have only 7 friends on facebook and use it to check in on my far away family every month or so. My advantage: I don’t have to be anyone’s good role model , which means when I’m not reading or writing, I spend more time than I should watching the TV. Its easier to in summer with gardening, but I hibernate in winter. I admire you…

    • Thanks! I am doing my best. It is nice to have a little people who can out smart the machines … I envy you that you can go a whole month without checking Facebook. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I love this. Our cable was out last night and it was so pleasant to go outside and talk and then come in to silence…with our iPads. Oh well, baby steps. I am all for your summer diet and will be trying to cut back a bit myself!

    • Our power was out last night too. The boys were asleep by 9PM and I was asleep by 10PM. Too dark to read by candle late. They are learning to enjoy play time without electronics. And I am enjoying uninterrupted reading time. Thanks for the support!

  8. it is the world we live in – but once again that stupid bugaboo balance comes into play — good for you for being so mindful of it


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