I can not express how blown away I was by this piece by AP journalist Beth Harpaz, which literally made my book world famous … for about 15 minutes. Lol! But seriously, this article was picked up by something like a thousand newspapers, blogs and websites. Wowzer. Here’s the version that ran on Yahoo News – where, btw, it was the number-one news story for two days running. WTF?!
Below is a short excerpt, as well as a link to the full article.
What happens when mom unplugs teens for 6 months?
Beth J. Harpaz
Susan Maushart lived out every parent’s fantasy: She unplugged her teenagers.
For six months, she took away the Internet, TV, iPods, cell phones and video games. The eerie glow of screens stopped lighting up the family room. Electronic devices no longer chirped through the night like “evil crickets.” And she stopped carrying her iPhone into the bathroom.
The result of what she grandly calls “The Experiment” was more OMG than LOL — and nothing less than an immersion in RL (real life).
As Maushart explains in a book released in the U.S. this week called “The Winter of Our Disconnect” (Penguin, $16.95), she and her kids rediscovered small pleasures — like board games, books, lazy Sundays, old photos, family meals and listening to music together instead of everyone plugging into their own iPods.
Her son Bill, a videogame and TV addict, filled his newfound spare time playing saxophone. “He swapped Grand Theft Auto for the Charlie Parker songbook,” Maushart wrote. Bill says The Experiment was merely a “trigger” and he would have found his way back to music eventually. Either way, he got so serious playing sax that when the gadget ban ended, he sold his game console and is now studying music in college.
Maushart’s eldest, Anni, was less wired and more bookish than the others, so her transition in and out of The Experiment was the least dramatic. Her friends thought the ban was “cool.” If she needed computers for schoolwork, she went to the library. Even now, she swears off Facebook from time to time, just for the heck of it.
Continue Reading What Happens When Mom Unplugs Teens for 6 Months?
The Wall Street Journal‘s wonderful columnist Elizabeth Bernstein recently featured “The Winter of Our Disconnect” along with the story of Diane Broadnax, a 50-year-old clinical trial researcher. It seems Broadnax performed a tech-detox of her own, forgoing all computerized entertainment for one week. What’s up with us 50-somethings? (Don’t answer that.)
Your Blackberry or Your Wife
It may be time for a technology cleanse.
Like an extreme diet that cuts out all processed foods for a short period of time with the promise of lasting good health, a technology cleanse means you unplug for a short time with longer-term benefits for your relationships.
But be warned: As with any other diet, it isn’t easy.
One of my favorite recent radio interviews was one I did with with Lisa Davis from It’s Your Health Radio.
I had a blast during the interview, and I’m taking Lisa up on her offer. I AM going to visit Walden Pond with her!
You can listen to the interview below by clicking the Play button:
It’s Your Health Network Interview
I’m humbled to see all the positive feedback everyone is giving the book. Maybe they’re just thinking, “Better her than me!” but whatever it is … it’s gratifying all the same. I loved Helen Brown’s piece in The Telegraph because it just so damned well written. You don’t get that much!
The Telegraph’s, Helen Brown, posted the article “A Page In The Life” earlier this week.
As always, below is a short excerpt, accompanied by a link to the full article.
Telegraph :: A Page In The Life: Susan Maushart
Susan Maushart, PhD, is the first grown up I’ve heard use the internet abbreviation LOL (laugh out loud) as a verb. It bobs about in her sophisticated New Yorker’s conversation like an ironic, pink cocktail cherry in an ice-cold Manhattan.
But then, so much of what happened during her family’s six-month “digital detox” found her “LOLing at myself”. Quite often just after she’d thought, “WTF?!” or “OMG!” She picked up the habit from her three children, who were 14, 15 and 18 years old when their mother pulled the plug on all their electronic media.
Photo: Adam Nadel
Melissa McClements at The Guardian recently posted a great article showcasing ‘the experiment’ from “The Winter of Our Disconnect“. Gotta love those Brits and how fast they pick up on EVERYTHING. These are people who are seriously into their tech. Personally, I think it’s the weather.
Below is a quick excerpt from The Guardian article as well as a link to the full version.
‘I took my kids offline’
Photograph: Richard Hatherly/Newspix
Continue Reading The Guardian: I Took My Kids Offline
Last month I wrote an article for The Independent describing the ‘digital detox’ we experienced during “The Winter of Our Disconnect“. Well, I sort of wrote it. Really, it was a collaboration between me, my book and an unseen sub-editor. Ah, the wonders of media! Was excited to have an article in this paper. Along with The Guardian, it’s one I read online all the time.
Below is an excerpt from the article as well as a link to the full article:
Raising three teenagers as a single parent is no Kon-Tiki cruise at the best of times. But when I decided we should all set sail for a six-month screen-free adventure, it suddenly came closer to The Caine Mutiny, with me in the Bogart role.
There were lots of reasons why we pulled the plug on our electronic media… or, I should say, why I did, because heaven knows my children would have sooner volunteered to go without food, water, or hair products. At ages 14, 15, and 18, my daughters Sussy and Anni and my son Bill don’t use media. They inhabit media. And they do so exactly as fish inhabit a pond. Gracefully. Unblinkingly. And utterly without consciousness or curiosity as to how they got there. They don’t remember a time before email, instant messenger, or Google. Even the media of their own childhood – VHS and dial-up, Nintendo 64 and “cordful” phones – they regard as relics, as quaint as inkwells. They collectively refer to civilisation pre–high-definition flat screens as “the black and white days”.
My children – like yours, I’m guessing – are part of a generation that cut its teeth, literally and figuratively, on a keyboard, learning to say “‘puter” along with “mama,” “juice,” and “now!” They’ve had mobile phones and wireless internet longer than they’ve had molars. Who multitask their schoolwork alongside five or six other electronic inputs, to the syncopated beat of the instant messenger pulsing insistently like some distant tribal tom-tom. Read More…
Busy, busy, busy - Here’s another recent article: this one from Mail Online. Getting the opportunity to actually go to London to promote my book was amazing. (Topshop? OMG. Don’t get me started …!) The thing is, that sort of thing doesn’t happen when you live in Western Australia.
There were lots of reasons why we pulled the plug on all electronic media in our home?…?or should I say why I did, because heaven knows my children would have sooner volunteered to go without food, water or hair products.
My children Anni, 18, Bill, 15, and Sussy, 14, don’t just use media. They inhabit it. They don’t remember a time before email, instant messaging or Google.
They are part of a generation that cut its teeth, literally and figuratively, on a keyboard. They’ve had mobile phones and wireless internet longer than they’ve had molars. They multi-task their lives alongside their iPods, Facebook and phone texts, as their instant messenger pulses in the background like some distant tribal TomTom.
Let's just say the kids were less than thrilled about giving up their electronics.
I initiated ‘The Experiment’, as it became known, because over a period of years I had watched and worried as the plethora of electronic gadgets in our home began to create a force field — separating my children from what my son, only half ironically, called ‘RL’ (Real Life).
For much of the time we were sitting in separate rooms of the house, hunched over our devices, barely communicating. It had to be unhealthy.
All the research I had read seemed to suggest that constant exposure to television, online media, social websites, texting and computer games could be detrimental to children’s well-being, school performance, sleeping habits and even arrest the development of their social, intellectual or spiritual skills.
And to be honest, the teenagers weren’t the only ones in our house with dependency issues.
The book came out in London before it did in the US, and I ended up seeing the inside of more BBC studios than you could throw a lapel mic at. But old media – oh god, how I hate that expression – jumped on board too, as this article from the Daily Express attests.
At Ages 14, 15 and 18, my daughters Sussy and Anni and my son Bill don’t use media. They “inhabit” media. And they do so exactly as fish inhabit a pond. Gracefully, unblinkingly and utterly without consciousness and curiosity as to how they got there. They don’t remember a time before email or instant messaging or Google. Even the media of their own childhood – VHS and dial-up internet, Nintendo 64 – they regard as relics, as quaint as inkwells.
Sussy, Susan, Bill and Anna (from left to right)
My kids are part of a generation who’ve had mobile phones and wireless internet longer than they’ve had molars; who multitask their schoolwork alongside five or six other electronic inputs. Wait a minute. Did I say they do their schoolwork like that? Correction. They do their “life” like that. They download movies and TV shows as casually as you or I might switch on the radio.
The Winter Of Our Disconnect – aka The Experiment – was in some ways an accident waiting to happen. I watched and worried as our media began to function as a force field separating my children from what my son only half-ironically called RL (Real Life).
When I first announced my intention to pull the plug on our family’s entire armoury of electronic weaponry, from the smallest iPod Shuffle to my son’s seriously souped-up gaming PC, my three kids didn’t blink an eye. Looking back I can understand why. They didn’t hear me. For Generation M – eight to 18-year-olds – media use is not an activity like exercise or playing Monopoly. It’s an environment: pervasive, invisible, shrink-wrapped around pretty much everything kids do and say and think. Today some 93 per cent of teenagers are online and 75 per cent use mobile phones.
I’m excited to announce that a reading group guide is now available for THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONNECT. The book tackles a topic that I’m sure will stimulate a lot of conversation in parenting pools, so I hope this will be useful!
I was recently interviewed by an Associated Press writer who was composing a piece on a topic that may hit home for many parents. Below is an excerpt as well as a link to the full write-up:
“Second-graders who can’t tie shoes or zip jackets. Four-year-olds in Pull-Ups diapers. Five-year-olds in strollers. Teens and preteens befuddled by can openers and ice-cube trays. College kids who’ve never done laundry, taken a bus alone or addressed an envelope.
Are we raising a generation of nincompoops? And do we have only ourselves to blame? Or are some of these things simply the result of kids growing up with push-button technology in an era when mechanical devices are gradually being replaced by electronics?
Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter “literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else.”
Teenagers are so accustomed to either throwing their clothes on the floor or hanging them on hooks that Maushart says her “kids actually struggle with the mechanics of a clothes hanger.”
Many kids never learn to do ordinary household tasks. They have no chores. Take-out and drive-through meals have replaced home cooking. And busy families who can afford it often outsource house-cleaning and lawn care.
“It’s so all laid out for them,” said Maushart, author of the forthcoming book “The Winter of Our Disconnect,” about her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. “Having so much comfort and ease is what has led to this situation — the Velcro sneakers, the Pull-Ups generation. You can pee in your pants and we’ll take care of it for you!”
The issue hit home for me when a visiting 12-year-old took an ice-cube tray out of my freezer, then stared at it helplessly. Raised in a world where refrigerators have push-button ice-makers, he’d never had to get cubes out of a tray — in the same way that kids growing up with pull-tab cans don’t understand can openers.
But his passivity was what bothered me most. Come on, kid! If your life depended on it, couldn’t you wrestle that ice-cube tray to the ground? It’s not that complicated!” Read more…