Thursday, September 13, 2012
Book review: Winter of our disconnect
My kids (especially my boys) have been totally freaking out while I've been reading this book over the last week. 'You're not going to do this to US are you Mum?' They obviously know that I'm quite fond of the grand announcement 'Right - no screen time, I'm SICK of it', so their nervousness may not be unwarranted!
American born writer and journalist Susan Maushart found herself at the start of 2009 in Perth with three teenage children who rarely interacted well with her or each other. They were all ensconced in their own digital worlds and as a single Mum, her guilt never allowed her to say no to her kids. Overtime they had all retreated to their bedrooms, eating on the run and sleeping whenever they felt like it. So Mauschert announces on the last day of their family holidays that they are going to disconnect all their technology for six months. For the first two weeks they also lived with no electricity.
The drastic measures she took seemed to be warranted. There was probably no other way of getting the family to shift out of that world to engage well with one another. As you can imagine not all her children were thrilled about it. But the outcomes were worth it. Her youngest child, 14, started to actually sleep better. Her 17 year old started to play the saxaphone again after not playing it for two years. The 19 year old started cooking. They discovered conversation and Boggle and watching the fire burn during the winter.
Maushart also did a lot of reading on the negative impact of the digital world on teenagers and families. It is a bit of a ramble through the countryside (not very well edited - as many of these books seem to be). I also think in many ways this is actually a book about things that she didn't quite do right as a mum - but she's very honest and open about all this and I think it is brave of her to share her mistakes so openly.
I have found that as my own kids are getting older, there is so much peer pressure to be online heaps more than I'm happy about. Many of my 14 year old's peers spend A LOT of time on their computers, with a number already having their own laptops with apparently very few limitations (although not surprising when there have been no limitations on what they watch on TV since day dot). Once again, we're the strange family, who seem to have some actual energy for the setting of the boundaries (yawn).
Just quietly, I would love to shut us down totally like she did. I think it would be brilliant for our family's creativity. And I'm so tired of negotiating computer turns etc., etc. So you never know kids ...