I love to read, and for Valentine's Day Paul gave me Susan Maushart's The Winter of Our Disconnect - How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale.
The title kind of says it all, but this book follows the six month period that Maushart and her family were completely unplugged. No television, no computers, no video games and not even a single Ipod. At least not at home or in their car. The kids were allowed to be online at computer cafes or friend's houses. In exchange, they were paid some of the profits of the book (and I'm just dying to know what they got paid, aren't you? What's the going rate for teens to totally unplug for 6 months anyhow? It's got to be up there!)
Most books I read don't strike me so deeply as to inspire me to write a review, but this one did. I think part of it is that Maushart is so philosophical, and she pulls references from classical literature that I enjoyed. In particular, she draws a lot from Thoreau's Walden. But I confess that she really had me (and my psychology background) when she threw in a reference to Abraham Maslow.
I'm a nerd for statistics and studies, so I really enjoyed that Maushart put so much hard evidence into her book. Even though I'm familiar with the plethora of studies that show the benefits of family time, in particular family dinners, I still enjoy reading the statistics because it adds more fuel to my fire to make family dinners special. It serves as confirmation - hey, you're doing something important in prepping dinner for the family every night! It's not just a mundane chore, it truly matters!
I was also familiar with the study showing a correlation between autism and the amount of television viewed at a young age. I'm familiar with it because I read the entire study - all 50+ pages of it - when it first came out (did I mention what a nerd I am?). I like how Maushart talks about the findings but also discusses the criticisms of this particular study. Like all studies, it's not perfect and shouldn't be accepted at face value. However, I agree with Maushart that the study has enough truth to it that parents should consider it's results and limit television viewing, particularly with children under the age of 2 or 3. As a side note, if you are interested in the studies on the adverse affects of television viewing in children, you might want to know that there is substantial evidence linking heavy tv viewing and violence. Kids do pick up and imitate what they view, so consider that when choosing their shows (television is great and can be educational - I'm not totally anti-tv; I'm just cautious - probably a bit overly so. Pierce does watch one children's dvd show a day).
And finally, I liked following how Maushart and her family fared over the 6 months. Did the disconnect, as you might expect, cause some challenges? Oh yes. Did it cause changes in the family? Absolutely. Her oldest daughter was cooking more, the middle son Bill rediscovers his love for the saxophone and music, and her youngest daughter catches up on a significant sleep deprivation and finds a sunnier disposition. In addition, they do start eating meals as a family, playing board games, and interacting as a unit in a more healthy and happy manner.
I don't want to give too much detail because I don't want to be a spoiler for you. This is a book you'll want to read for yourself, particularly if you have children. It will make you groan at times, it will make you laugh, and it will make you rexamine your daily habits and ask yourself if the small moments of each day are meaningful.
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