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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Is It Time for a Tech Detox?

By Tracey Dowdy

I spent the better part of the last week without my cell phone. Random events and bad weather kept me from both of my chargers and I refused to buy a third. As a result, I went through an involuntary tech detox. Not only did I survive, I actually kind of liked it!

In a world where children as young as 4 are being treated for tech addictions, and the iPotty is a real thing, finding a balance between becoming a Luddite and being lost in the matrix is important. If you feel like you or your family could benefit from cutting back on your tech time, here are a few tips to get you started.

1. If you’re asking your family to disconnect, give them a heads up and explain your reasons. They’ll be more receptive if you present your goals and less likely to see it as punishment.

2. You don’t need to make a grand announcement, but it’s a good idea to let friends and family know if you’re disconnecting for an extended period of time. They can help hold you accountable and help you reach your goal.

3. Make a plan. If you’re disconnecting, think about what you’re going to do to fill that time. Here’s your chance to do something with those 247 craft projects you’ve pinned on Pinterest.

4. Be clear about the rules. You may need to check work email at home and your kids may need Internet access for homework. What happens if someone cheats?

5. Determine the boundaries that will work for you and your family. You may not want to go cold turkey and you may not need to. Consider setting times in the morning or afternoon where you can plug in and catch up. When the time is up, walk away.

6. Start small. Instead of automatically placing your phone on the table or your desk, leave it in your pocket or your bag. Institute a “one screen rule” – if you’re watching a movie on TV, watch the movie on TV. Put your phone away.

7. Make your bedroom a tech-free zone. Instead of scrolling through Facebook or watching TV before you fall asleep, read a book – not on your Kindle or iPad, since that’s cheating – or even better, play with your kids or have a face to face conversation instead of a virtual one.

Remember the whole goal is for you to be in control, not the device. Technology should make your real life better – not take you out of it.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, Ontario. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.

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