Challenge 8 – Give yourself permission to unplug for 24 hours

Your challenge this week: To ask yourself what memories you could make by giving yourself permission to switch off all technology for 24 hours.

This challenge encourages the following values:
Resilience, Gratitude, Resourcefulness, Optimism, Patience, Commitment, Serenity.

What you need to complete your challenge this week:

  • Switch the power button to ‘off’ on your laptop, PC, smartphone, games console, television, radio etc for 24 hours
  • Go and do stuff you enjoy with your family!
  • Added extra, keep a box on your dining table to put all your tech into at mealtimes, we added ‘no toys’ to our box so that the youngest could be included in the new rule too… and we let him decorate the box – do it, any box will do!

If all else fails… unplug for a shorter period of time and build up to 24 hours by repeating the exercise at regular intervals. The point of this challenge, (and it is meant to ‘challenge’ you), is to ringfence a period of time when you use absolutely no technology. Putting all phones in a box or drawer, as suggested above, during mealtimes or switching off for just a morning or afternoon may feel more achievable if the idea of 24 hours feels impossible? Above all be safe, if you have a medical condition do what you need to avoid an emergency.

Food for thought for the grown-ups:

I know am fortunate to live in such a time and place that allows me to have a smartphone. I am also very grateful for this piece of awesome technology which allows me to contact people and for other people to contact me. My smartphone shows me the weather, my bank balance and allows me to organise my life, even plan my next blog BUT my phone is also a prison. I don’t believe that my phone actually empowers me but rather consumes my time and my attention. It may well be a vast source of information but all that information is trapped in quicksand, I step in to access it but once in I find it oh so hard to get out again. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the phone or the technology, I blame myself and how easily I succumb to the (mostly) complete rubbish that pops up in front of me consuming my attention, if you have facebook I’m sure you’ll understand this. Sometimes I feel like I’m becoming more and more detached from the real world around me and I’m sure it’s doing things to my brain! I feel lost without my phone, scared without it, bored without it, vulnerable without it. Out of touch, left out, guilty, lonely, LONELY! I’m a working single mum, I’m literally never alone! This is ridiculous surely? Does any of this resonate with you?

Smartphones, because they are our Internet, our TV, our camera, our games console, our music all rolled into one portable device, are putting pressure on us and on our relationships with those around us – they limit our availability to talk, acknowledge and spend meaningful time with each other. For us now, the advances in mobile technology mean that we are able to take our virtual lives everywhere – and we do. So obsessed are we with being contactable and visible and in touch with our own online community that we are missing huge chunks of our families lives as they grow up on the other side of that screen before our very eyes. **PUTS HAND UP** This is me, I am doing this, I do this every day, I pick my phone up without realising and once my laptop is open if I am not specifically writing or working I can get so absorbed I lose hours. Hours I could be spending more connected to my children, to real life. I need to change this but change is hard so here is where the challenge comes in. Do this with me and my family even if you don’t feel you need to maybe just try it, it’s only 24 hours after all?

OK, so what can we get out of this challenge? Freedom. Actually, make that guilt free freedom because we are giving ourselves permission to switch off and unplug for a whole 24 hours. This kind of liberation will require you to be resourceful as the usual information source at your fingertips will be gone. Look at this time with optimism, be present and in the moment, practice gratitude for the tangible things in front of you, the people, the places, the experiences that you are really living rather than recording, photographing and reporting about. Commit yourself to it and enjoy the serenity that comes from being unplugged, listen to the sea or the birds instead of the radio, watch a sunset or your children playing in the park instead of the TV. Plan your day and above all just give yourself permission to switch off to enjoy it.

And for the children:

I’d like to examine this from a slightly different angle to the technology pitfalls I discussed earlier and you may not agree with what I write but these are my musings on the subject of children and smartphones. We as parents can often feel we lack the technological acumen that our children are being born into and we are therefore beginning to lack the knowledge, and even authority, to manage its use. Parents of children with smartphones are no longer the gatekeepers of their children’s social lives and they, in this virtual world of social media, are becoming socially independent of their parents far younger than is healthy or safe. I personally worry that children see the technological divide as a thing of freedom and independence. For teenagers, of course, it is natural for them to crave both these things and as a result, we parents start to feel in the dark, disconnected and ultimately unable to ensure the safety and security of our children. A scary gulf begins to appear…

So what can I do to keep the lines of communication open with my children before they get lost in the internet world? This challenge, that’s what I can do, and laugh if you will but it’s a small gesture towards teaching them the benefits of living beyond a screen.

If you intend to unplug your children, it is well worth planning ahead. Plan to go out, plan an adventure or a road trip, plan a day of board games or crafts or cooking. Whatever you plan to do make sure they are things you enjoy too, if the day is a chore for you its not likely to help keep you from your phone! The activities you plan to do need to show, and teach your children about the world beyond the screen. Adventure, fun, food and talking need to be the order of the day, learn stuff about each other, tell your children stories about your childhood, what did you do for fun? Go and do those things (unless they involve the asbestos blown off a barn in an ’87 storm, don’t do those things, my sister, cousins and I probably shouldn’t have done but hey, our childhoods weren’t so health and safety orientated were they!)

So go for it, plan ahead, make sure you don’t have any appointments that day or write down anything you might need to remember and spend time making memories that will never be posted on social media, printed or put in an album. Make them the memories that you had as a child, those special memories etched in your mind that grow fuzzy but make you smile. Do it, give yourself permission to switch off and unplug.

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