Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, texting — we have instant access to human contact 24 hours a day. We log in and tune out. We overshare with strangers and don't share enough with our families. For these reasons, I have a love/hate relationship with technology.
Canadians spend more time online than any other country and that can mean that every member of a family is online on their own device, even in the same room. I just emailed this to my husband sitting across from me on the couch and he totally agrees.
Many parents have expressed concern about technology’s intrusion into their family time. I feel it. Do you?
I grew up pre-internet, so I learned how to maintain a conversation and I can easily make human contact without being digitally connected. But can I say the same about my children? Can you?
Even if we limit our kids’ screen time, their learning and social skills are still impacted by OUR screen time. Have you ever shushed your child so you could finish composing an email on your phone? Have you looked away during your child’s soccer game to post a tweet? Have you texted from the dinner table in the middle of your son telling you about his French test? Not proud of it, but I've done all of these and more.
I make my living online, so I’m not about to give it up. But, I’m aware of the need to balance technology with dedicated "unplugged" family time. Like many parents, I’m struggling with this and need to make this a priority — not just tweeting and blogging about it, but actually doing it on a daily basis.
Hiding in the bathroom to check my email is not the same as tuning into my family. So, we’ve taken a Tech Timeout Pledge.
Notice how my name appears twice? This is because I uploaded the form twice. Ironic that somebody who loves technology so much could be so hopelessly tech-challenged.
Tech Timeout is a community initiative started by Foresters, a life insurance provider with a purpose which is to “enhance the well-being of families and communities.” The Tech Timeout campaign brings awareness to the growing social concern about the impact that digital devices and technology is having on family togetherness. Watch this video for some inspiration.
To participate, you can download a pledge form from Techtimeout.com. By signing the form, individuals make a pledge to one another to refrain from using digital devices for one hour a day for a week. I couldn’t print ours since my printer has gone offline and I don’t know how to fix it. See? Tech…challenged.
The Tech Timeout challenges participants to turn off digital devices (including TVs, smartphones, game consoles and computers) and to connect with each in a more personal way. Nobody keeps track of this but you. And there’s no prize at the end except for the quality time spent with your family. That’s priceless and vital for the health of our families, in my opinion.
You can use this time to enjoy tech-free activities like reading, board games, volunteering, outdoor play or whatever you enjoy doing.
Some of the offline activities my family enjoyed during our Tech Timeout include:
Chatting, collecting rocks and leaves, looking for bugs and enjoying nature
Head Bandz is something all four of us can play together.
We invent games and then play them together as a family...this one is called, "Marbel Mayhem."
The kids do the show, the parents watch and heckle from the audience.
My kids could do this ALL day. Sometimes they do and I film them (Yes, this involves technology, but it's in the name of art). Then we watch the movies together later with popcorn. The movie below is about the Zombies in our yard. It's still in the editing stage, but when it's ready I'll be sure to share. It's "frightening".... in a hilarious sort of way.
Lawn darts (yes, the "safe" ones), croquet, basketball in the drive-way (girls against the boys), Four Square, Hopscotch and running through obstacle courses the kids set up.
My son and I are both learning guitar. He can play all kinds of pop songs. I can play Mary Had a Little Lamb.
The kiddie pool, water squirters, water balloons, the hose. The wetter the better.
Full disclosure… I sent a text while the kids were hiding. I am weak and I am ashamed.
Exactly like the Nature Walk but with binoculars and our necks craned upwards. Pun intended.
I'm sure our neighbours get a laugh watching the Thornburys race like mad (winded) people across the park, but it's something we do. THIS is an example of how ridiculous it looks. Let me preface this by saying, yes, I did push my son down onto the grass in order to have a better chance of winning. But to be fair, I pushed my daughter down too. :)
I encourage you to take the Tech Timeout pledge and enjoy some tech-free time with your kids!
Still need more inspiration to take the Tech Timeout Pledge?
YMC Gigamom, Eileen Fisher, who is addicted to tech, talks about what happened to her family when they unplugged.
Andrea Nair, psychotherapist and parenting educator, shares her five tips for families to use technology in a safe and responsible way.
Jennifer Kolari, family therapist, shares four simple strategies to help your family connect during your tech timeout.
And to help you reconnect with your family, we're giving away a $50 Family Game Set to ten lucky YMC Members, courtesy of Foresters. Enter today!
This is proudly sponsored by our friends at Foresters.
Foresters™ is the trade name and a trademark of The Independent Order of Foresters, 789 Don Mills Road, Toronto, Canada M3C 1T9; its subsidiaries are licensed to use this mark. Tech Timeout and the Tech Timeout logo are trademarks of The Independent Order of Foresters.
What better way to get party guests laughing than to play a silly game? Warning: Heavy laughing may result in snorting, gasping and/or punch shooting out someone's nose.
If you haven't played Awkward Family Photos...
or Loaded Questions...
...you totally should! They're both good clean fun. *Depending on your who your guests are.
WORD GAMES are easy to organize and fun to play.
"I Never" always gets people laughing....awkwardly. I'm aware that this is a game played by teenagers, but just because we're in our Carlsberg years, are we not entitled to a little nosey, immature fun?
And then there's "Would You Rather?" This game generally starts off innocently enough with questions like, "Would you rather eat a 5-alarm spicy pepper without water to wash it down or eat the pepper followed by a glass of water, but it's toilet water?"
I've played this game with friends for years. I can assure you, OUR questions were always clean and thought provoking. Okay, the one about being buried alive with only a straw to the surface to breathe through, versus doing that thing with the people in that place which I have been sworn never to discuss...ever again.... wasn't exactly clean, but it was certainly thought provoking. Nightmare provoking even.
If you have played "Would You Rather" then you need to take a drink. If you have never played "Would You Rather," read this Buzzfeed post, "The 15 Most Difficult "Would You Rather Questions Of All Time" and play along.
A few of my favourite questions include:
You can read the rest of the questions and play here: Buzzfeed's Would You Rather Challenge
Happy party gaming!
Trailing through my photos this summer in a feeble attempt at organization, I stumbled across pictures of my elementary school days. I found this classic shot of me with some of my fifth grade pals. Of course I chuckled. How could I not? I'm wearing a puka bead necklace for crying out loud. Then it dawned on me. This is me at age ten — the same age as my son is now. It's freaky. And by freaky, I'm not just referring to my gap toothed smile and tragic bowl cut.
Our son is going into grade five this year. It's hard to believe, but I did the math and it's correct (coincidentally, my arithmetic ability stops abruptly at fifth grade level).
I decided to introduce the ten-year-old him to the ten-year-old me. I told my son a bit about my fifth grade experience. I also shared a little about each of the kids in this photograph (their stories are below the photo if you're interested).
Before you send your kids back to school, why not dig up a photo of you at the grade level your child is entering? Even make it a yearly BTS tradition. What a wonderful way to bridge the gap between generations by sharing a little of yourself with your kids in this easy, time-warp sort of way.
That's me in the "Vancouver 81" t-shirt. I was ten. On my left (in the lavendar blouse) is Tiffany. She and I have been best friends since the third grade. We still are. We grew up together, but at the same time, we've never actually grown up all the way. We're sure to be old ladies, rocking furiously together in our pimped out rocking chairs, throwing our heads back and laughing hard until one of us spits out our false teeth.
Beside Tiff is the boy who I had a mad crush on. He and I built forts together and played with our Star Wars action figures in his yard. We tore around the neighbourhood on our bikes, climbed trees and jumped on pogo sticks. Though I secretly loved him with all my heart, he only ever saw me as a buddy. But that was okay. The memories I have of him are sweet and I wouldn't change a thing.
Lorraine, pictured below my "boy friend," was a sweetheart and still is. I played my first video game at her house. She rented an Atari system for her birthday and we partied hard. We reconnected on Facebook and I learned that she and I are both proud mums of special girls. Lorraine is rocking the parent thing and she inspires me in so many ways.
I pointed out each child to my son and told him their stories. For the purpose of privacy I will mention the rest only by initial here.
R was the first person to tease me. It happened in grade two. He called me Poo Coat. Silly, but it hurt at the time. Looking back on it and knowing now about his current lifestyle, I understand how he may have struggled to fit in.
T was the first boy I ever kissed. It was on a dare. It wasn't particularly pleasant, nor unpleasant. There were no fireworks or angels singing. It just was.
D was the first boy I "went around with." Did you ever call it that? We went to McDonalds together and he bought me a cheese burger.
We played "dance club" in L's basement and listened to Deep Purple cranked up high in her room. She was quiet at times, but had a firey spark in her that I always admired. She grew up to be a successful business women, an athlete and mother. That spark has served her well.
A was the first friend to make me doubt myself. She left me out and made me feel insecure. I questioned my self worth. I didn't understand the complexities of manipulation at the time. A year later she came crawling back. I forgave her, but I never trusted her again.
M was one of my closet friends. We lost touch somewhere during Junior High and I missed her. How could we have been so close, and then grown so far apart? We spent countless days roller skating, swimming at the local pool and doing gymnastics on the lawn. We shared secrets and I wanted to be like her. I lost track of her after I moved away. But again, through the magic of Facebook, we've reconnected. She always comments on my blog posts and updates and supports me in everything I do. That connection, that bond of friendship is still there. It turns out it was never lost after all, but merely sidetracked. Real friends don't ever really leave you.
E and I met in grade 5 and become fast friends. She was the smartest person I knew. She struggled to fit in and always seemed to have something to prove. But when we were together, E was just E. She always made me strive for more, to be better, to learn more, to know more. I'll always be grateful to her for that. We stayed close friends well into our adulthood. When my daughter was diagnosed with challenges and my focus shifted from free and easy to family first, she left. She told me I wasn't "fun" anymore. Maybe real friends do leave?
Son, choose your friends wisely. Treat them with kindness and respect and expect the same from them. Grade five will come and go in a flash and leave you with memories you will cherish and that will help shape you into the man you will soon become.
I'd love to see a photo of YOU in all your school days glory! Feel free to share in the comments below.