A mother, father, and their son hang out together in the living room.

My family is going to unplug for 24 hours. This is our game plan

There was a time in my life as recently as three years ago when I had no trouble with devices. I worked in an office and once the kids were home from daycare I unplugged. There were days when I worked after they were in bed but laptops and phones were something to be “worked at.”

That changed when I left my busy corporate career to move across the country from Calgary to Toronto, and became a work-at-home mom. That’s when the lines started to blur.

Initially, I was good at getting my work done between school and activities, but soon I realized plugging in had become something I did all the time. I checked email at school pick up, got kids snacks while tweeting, and Instagrammed dinner. I felt that the multitasking was taking me away from being present with my kids. And I learned something important about myself: I need limits.

There’s just something about a smartphone and how difficult it is to put down.

So a few months ago I started a smartphone detox, and while that regimen didn’t last too long, I have gotten in the habit of putting away the phone once I get the kids and I don’t pick it up again until after dinner. If there is a looming deadline I pull out my laptop.

Since my oldest got a phone of her own and my younger one inherited her sister’s tablet, starting good tech habits and being intentional about going device-free has become even more critical. I’ve already structured our family time in a way that reduces the constant “pinging” from our pockets and ups the amount of time we’re spending being active and outdoors. But one thing we haven’t done is go a full day without our technology.

So I’m excited to try a full 24 hours tech free on National Day of Unplugging from sundown on Friday, March 3 to sundown on Saturday, March 4. But I am also a bit daunted by the thought so I think it’s important to have a game plan. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. We’ll have a family meeting prior to March 3 and come up with a list of indoor and outdoor activities, games, and outings that we have been wanting to do together.
  2. All the devices will go in a box on top of the book shelf starting Friday night after dinner.
  3. Whenever someone feels the urge to check email or text we will first look up the list and support each other with ideas. The day will be spent outside as we usually do on the weekend, either geo-caching, bird-watching, hiking, or skating. Or perhaps we’ll try something new that comes as a result of a family brainstorm.
  4. If the weather doesn’t cooperate there’s always the backup indoor activities. An obstacle course, Simon says, dance party, reading books, drawing, beading, charades, etc.

What about taking pictures?

Like so many others, I take pictures to document my day with the kids. For most of us our phone is our camera — I can’t remember the last time I used an actual camera to take pictures. On Unplug Day you may decide to take a break from taking pictures entirely. If you don’t want to do that, a good strategy is to switch your phone to airplane mode and all Wi-Fi, GPS, and cellular activity will be blocked.

This is also a good trick to remember when you’re out with your family and want to dial down the lure of your phone. Another idea is to turn your notifications off. That way there will be no pings to distract you from the people you’re with. I’ve done that a few times and you can feel the difference. It puts you in charge of when you’re checking in.

Will the kids hate me?

It’s possible but I’m pretty sure it will be short-lived.

And I’m going to remind my kids, and myself, that National Day of Unplugging isn’t a punishment. Rather, it’s an opportunity to enjoy family time together in a different way. It may be — dare I say — a better way to enjoy time together.

In a world like ours that is so full of technology, going device-free all the time isn’t realistic. And I know 24 hours might be a long haul. But with a game plan and everyone’s input, I’m hoping that we’re going to find a reason to put our technology down a little more often. I think we might be surprised by how nice it ends up being.

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