My Mini Digital Detox – by Anna Bell

When I wrote a novel about a woman going on a digital detox I didn’t expect it to get under my skin. It started to make me analyse how my family and I used technology and it shocked me. From my four-year-old demanding I Google all of the answers to his curious questions to my just turned two-year-old who snatches my iPad and turns on Peppa Pig – we’re all hooked. So I decided to do something about it. During October half term me and my kids spent three days without access to my phone, iPad or the TV and DVD player. I braced myself for the worst – but I was shocked at the results.



I expected it all go to pear shaped on the first morning. We have a lazy morning routine – the kids get up watch TV as they eat breakfast and I sit and have a cup of coffee browsing on my phone until it’s time to get ready. I braced myself when my 4yo woke up and demanded Dinotrux on the TV I said no and I told him to play with his toys, which to my amazement he did. My 2yo took more convincing when I told her there was no Peppa Pig, instead I had to read her Peppa Pig books – which was fine as I had no phone to be browsing on anyway. So far so good.


I then took the easy option with the kids shipping my 2yo off to nursery (guaranteed screen free) and my 4yo went out for the day with his grandparents. Which put me to the test: a day working on my laptop without going online. I’m a terrible procrastinator when I’m writing my books, I’m constantly switching off my WiFi to knuckle down only to switch it on a couple of minutes later. Yet, much to my surprise I spent the whole day offline. There must have been something about knowing I wasn’t allowed to go online that actually stopped me from logging on. I found willpower I didn’t know I had – and surprise, surprise I had a very productive day at work.


The kids arrived back just in time for the witching hour that time that I usually shove the telly on and hope for the best. On a normal evening when I’m trying to sort the chaos of the house out whilst cooking the dinner, it’s not unusual for one child to be watching TV with the other watching the iPad. I decided that the only way to get through this time was to offer distractions which meant something had to give. The housework was forgotten, fish fingers and chips went in the oven and we played tents in the living room. I kept waiting for meltdowns and tantrums but they never came. They seemed happy to have my undivided attention and they didn’t notice the lack of screens.


The next two days the kids were at home with me and I took them for long days out to country parks and to see friends. We were far away from temptation and I cheated meal times again by eating at my parents house one night and getting the kids to help me make pizza another night. Our house has never had so many bear/crocodile/monster invasions that we needed to make tents to escape and it was great to see that my little ones had such vivid imaginations.


I won’t lie – I missed my phone. I had to drop in unannounced to see friends and on other occasions use my lesser spotted house phone. My inner hypochondriac hated the fact that I couldn’t Google mostly imaginary symptoms and I had to leaf through recipe books to find a recipe for canapés to take to a party. I had no idea I Googled so much.


But, as much as I missed Google and Whatsapp, I felt so free. I enjoyed playing with my kids and I didn’t feel as if anyone was judging me over what I was or wasn’t doing. I enjoyed being in the moment with my family and not feeling like there was someone else in the room that needed my attention.


When I finally went back online on day four, I felt like a crack addict as I hid in the kitchen devouring Instagram stories and it actually made me feel dirty. It made me realise how I’m addicted to the most ridiculous things and how much time I could have if I gave them up.


We’re now fully back online but the effects of the digital detox can still be felt. We’re stricter on screen time. We say no a lot more. I’ve deleted Facebook off all my devices and I try and keep my Google usage on the low. I’ve started to read more books in the evenings and the early mornings and I say yes to playing tents a whole lot more. I know that it’s going to keep getting harder as the kids get older but I’m hoping that the boundaries and example we set now will help us in the future.



It Started With A Tweet is available for pre-order now from Amazon.



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