From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, it’s officially the National Day of Unplugging. It’s a 24 hour period when people are asked to put away their phones and other electronic devices to connect with their families. (In the Jewish world, it’s called Shabbat and it happens every Friday night.)
Two Austin moms Julie Farnie and Kate Scholz have created a game to help you unplug, especially with your tweens and tweens. It’s also a chance to talk about what values you have when it comes to the way you use social media and websites.
Off The Grid is literally a box that you put your phones in and a deck of cards that covers questions on four topic areas: Social Media Smarts, Phone Etiquette and Boundaries, Online Safety and Just for Fun.
Questions include: Is it safe to have conversations with a stranger online? When you travel, do you look out the window or do you keep your head down with your eyes on the phone? What is the most polite way to start a conversation with someone? Have you ever photo-bombed someone else’s selfie? Can you imagine a world without cellphones? What types of things are easy to say to people on social media instead of saying them in person? What is the difference between the things you share with your friends and the things you share with your best friends? What is integrity and do you have it?
Farnie and Scholz encourage both parents and kids to answer the questions and have s discussion. They also encourage families to use the box as a place to keep phones when there needs to be a phone-free time like at dinner. The game is available for $25 at offthegridbox.com.
“One of the keys to this game is that it’s a way to have discussions with kids that are not preaching to them,” Farnie says. It also helps parents think about things that they might not have considered needing to talk with kids about as well. “Parents are learning at the same time they’re learning,” she says. “We don’t learn that we need to talk about something until something happens.”
The idea came after Farnie and Scholz were discussing that Scholz’s daughters, who are 12 and 15, were always on their phones or checking their phones. “It was, ‘oh my gosh, I need to check my phone.'” Farnie says. “No one could stay off the phone.”
Farnie’s son is 9, so she hasn’t quite experienced that yet with him, but she knows she will. “They are losing their manners and their etiquette,” she says of today’s teens. And adults, too, are having trouble putting away their phones.
Now that the game is out, there are things Farnie says would have been good to include, maybe for older teens, like questions about sexting and not using your phone to cheat in school. The other question she wishes had been in there: What do you think about famous people and political people putting things online?
For more information on kids and screen time, read these stories:
New American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines
Kids attached to their screens
Mentor not monitor kids’ screen use
Kids addicted to screens
Monitor kids’ screen use
Set up a screen time contract