Unplugging in the Name of Digital Wellness: Easier Said Than Done

How tied to you feel to your digital devices? Do you feel the need to answer every phone call even after the work day ends? Are you compelled to respond to text messages and emails as soon as they come in? Do you remember life before smartphones and tablets?

Such devices are still fairly new but their prevalence in our lives and in those in the people around us have changed us. As a society, it’s becoming harder and harder to unplug since such devices make us available around the clock. Family vacations are punctuated by sneaking peeks at our email during time when we should be relaxing or using in-flight wifi to catch up before returning to the office after days away.

I know this because I’m guilty too. I make a point to unplug from the time my kids come home until they are bed at night but there’s always the concern that I’m missing something. What if an important email comes in while I’m helping kids with homework or a client needs to get in touch with me after my work day has ended? As much as I try to resist the pull of my computer, tablet, and phone, it’s always there.

Our difficulty in disconnecting was raised by panelists speaking at a session called Digital Wellness in a Mobile World at this year’s Family Online Safety Institute’s Annual Conference. The hour-long conversation featuring top executives from Verizon, AT&T, and Location Labs touched on the very risks and rewards that our devices provide. Our ability to be connected via our smartphones has dangerous consequences when we think about texting and driving and real life implication like missing out on important moments with our family because we just can’t unplug.

It also provided food for thought about the fact that if we can’t personally unplug from our devices, how can we expect our children to? We harass them endlessly at times to turn off the television, step away from the gaming console, and take off the headphones to stop listening to music on their iPods but can we really expect them to based on the behaviors that they see from us? If we want our children to unplug, perhaps we need to as well. Easier said than done but surely there must be a starting point somewhere.

How do you achieve digital wellness by balancing the need for screens in your work and personal life with family life? What is this healthy balance and do you have tips for achieving it?

Young people sending messages with mobile phone via Shutterstock


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  1. by Christina

    On December 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I agree, it can be difficult to find that balance between technology and time with family, especially for those of us who are great at multi-tasking. I try to schedule my time immersing myself in the digital world, and time to be spend quality time with my family. Otherwise it won’t happen. There’s always room for improvement, but I think calendar planning is the most effective way.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. by littleduckies

    On December 12, 2012 at 5:16 am

    It used to be that you had a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the bus. No more. Now, each person is busy on their mobile device. It’s especially sad to see couples who are sitting “together”, but they are worlds apart, not even paying attention to the other person, because they are wrapped up in their music, texts, or whatever else they are doing. And then we wonder why so many people today have trouble with relationships (and in school).

  3. by Frances

    On December 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    I’ve thought about this alot – as I tell the kids to turn off the TV while I’m online. And I like your suggestion of unplugging once they are at home until bedtime. I check my phone and FB when I’m out more so b/c I’m bored than I feel like I’m missing something important; but for whatever reason, I am missing what could be quality time with my kids, that I’m always complaining that there isn’t enough of.