Change of Direction

I looked up from my laptop screen and noticed something unsettling. Arranged around me on the couch and floor were all five of my kids on their phones or tablets—texting, watching YouTube videos, playing games—as the TV blared, apparently unseen, in the background.

A little warning bell went off in my head, but I had work to do, so I filed it away in my unconscious and got back to whatever it was that was more important than connecting with my family.

As the week wound its way to the weekend, my family’s addiction to their glowing screens kept interrupting my normal flow. I found myself scolding kids for bringing their phones to the dinner table. I kept trying to find my son—wanting to connect with him now that he was home from college—and kept finding him on his bed, hunched over his phone—seemingly frustrated that I kept interrupting him. I found myself checking email right before bed—and then having trouble sleeping because a problem I couldn’t fix until the morning had cropped up.

To make it worse—or maybe more obvious—the news sources I follow got in on the act. I was fed a steady stream of stories on how the iPhone was killing our posture, making us distracted, effecting how we solved problems and viewed ourselves, shortening our attention spans and disconnecting us from the natural world in a way that made us fundamentally less happy.

Finally, I threw up my hands. Enough. Stop the insanity!

That night, at dinner, I dropped the hammer on myself and my family. Effective immediately, the TV was only allowed to be on for one hour per night. And, when Travis came home from college for Christmas break, we were going to go cold turkey on cell phones and tablets. They would be allowed one hour per day to use their phones and then they’d go back in the drawer which I would lock if necessary.

I knew this would be unpopular, but WOW! The raw anger my kids directed at me and my wife was unsettling and enlightening. They were so addicted to their devices they literally couldn’t understand how they could navigate life without them. They would lose their friends. Miss out on all the fun things everybody was doing. And so on.

But, then, something interesting happened. That night, the TV was left turned off (and they were still allowed to use their phones). This time when I looked up from my laptop (shameful), I saw my family arranged around the room, listening to mutually agreed upon music and reading books. Remember those? Awesome.

The fun continued. The next night, an impromptu game of charades broke out. And the night after that, we played cards.

We’re settling into a new rhythm—which is nice, but occasionally we find ourselves looking for something new to do—which is where this issue of Camp Business might come in handy. Its chock full of top programming ideas for 2016—a great way to start the New Year!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy re-connecting with my family. If you do, or if you don’t, let me know. We’re always interested in how we can improve.

Here’s to a great 2016!

Rodney J. Auth