For many of us, we can (just about) remember life before a world of mobiles, internet and iPods. We often look back and think, “How did we used to cope?” But for one Canadian family, they are doing just that – doing away with modern technology and living like it’s the year 1986. For one year, the McMillan family are shunning post-1986 gadgets, and embracing the 80s. This ‘social experiment’ comes after Blair McMillan’s son refused to play outside with his dad, choosing instead to stay indoors with his iPad games. Worried that his kids weren’t making the most of their childhood, a frustrated Blair decided to do something about it.
The McMillans have done away with their computer, choosing to send handwritten letters by post instead of emails, and knocking on friends’ doors for a chat rather than posting on their Facebook wall. Gone are the mobile phones too, with the fax machine and rotary telephone being the family’s only form of telecommunication. They navigate the roads using a paper map, develop and print their photos the old fashioned way and look up information in the encyclopaedia.
Although rewinding back to a much simpler time conjures up nostalgic memories of our own childhoods, the McMillans’ experiment isn’t without its drawbacks. Blair McMillan’s business has lost money and a partner, and friends have stopped coming round, refusing to leave their mobiles in a box for the duration of their visit.
There’s no doubt that many of us believe we can’t live without modern technology. That feeling of loss that comes over us when we realise we’ve forgotten our mobile at home or the sense of pure frustration when the Internet connection goes down. The McMillans’ experiment might seem completely bonkers to a lot of us as we continue to embrace our gadgets, life seemingly impossible without them. But just how much do we depend on them?
At the other end of the spectrum, a 4-year-old girl from South-East England recently became the country’s youngest iPad addict, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the device was taken away from her. Worried by her compulsive behaviour, her parents enrolled her in a £16,000-a-month ‘digital detox programme’, designed to wean patients off their electronic devices. The NHS even has plans to recognise Internet Addiction Disorder in a manual for GPs.
Although these are extreme cases, just how much do we depend on our devices to pacify our little ones? They can be a useful tool when rewarding, distracting or calming children. But like anything in life, it’s all about finding that elusive balance – perhaps you feel it’s time to take a leaf out of Blair McMillan’s book and get back to basics. Comment below and tell us about your experiences – we’d love to know what you think.