How To De-Tech Your Family For The Holidays

It’s that time of the year where the family comes together around the table to savour each other’s company and the sumptuous meal in front of them. Then… a notification sound comes in – there goes someone checking on Facebook or a messaging app again. Sigh, so much for some quality family time.

If this bugs you more than you’d like to admit, and your pleas for an undisturbed Christmas dinner has fallen on deaf ears, you might have already resigned yourself to an evening of everyone staring at their screens at the dinner table. But why submit when you can take control?

Here’s a guide detailing the 5 ways you can get your gathering of peeps to unplug for Christmas, use it well to earn back your Christmas family time of yore and good cheer and don’t feel sorry for using this – they chose to be reminded of a tech-free holiday the hard way.

1. Silent Mode: On

Let’s start small, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, that they are capable of controlling their own urges to check their phones every 5 minutes. As the people start to file into your humble abode, request for them to silence their phones and devices. It would be ideal for them to turn off all notifications but we don’t want them to be unreachable in case of a real emergency, right?

You might need to schedule in pockets of time where they can check on their phones for urgent emails (pffft) or messages because this isn’t an actual detoxing exercise and you really don’t want a sudden meltdown to occur in the middle of your dinner party.

2. Change The Wi-Fi Password

If, however, you are dealing with family members, there is a 99.999% chance that your pleas to put their devices on silent will be completely ignored. Furthermore, if you have chronic gamers who want to keep crushing candy and feeding virtual farm animals, putting their phones on silent don’t help.

It’s simple really; if you can’t win them, you cut the connection – your Wi-Fi connection to be exact. It’s as simple as changing the password, or completely turning off the router (desperate measures and all that). Then, it is off to feigning temporary (or selective) deafness to the popular question "What is your Wi-Fi password?" for the rest of the Christmas holiday.

This will force some of them to go back to their data plan, and for those who obsessively count MBs and monitor their data plans, they know this is a battle they are going to lose.

3. Confiscate All Gadgets

The next stage would be to ask everyone to surrender their gadgets, only don’t do this straight after asking them to silence their phones or when they are asking for the password. You don’t want them to catch on to your plan of world domination, I mean, de-teching for the main course so that everyone gets some IRL face time while savouring the roast turkey you spent 5 hours in the kitchen preparing.

That said, at the start of meal time is a good time to confiscate their electronics. Just pass around a box or a bag for your guests to place their stuff in. By doing this, you would also take care of announcing that "Dinner Is Served!" and thus effectively ensure that no screen shall be sitting at the table.


4. Hide All Gaming Consoles

You might have taken care of the grown ups and some of the teenagers but you have one more age group left: kids. With their parents’ tablets and phones out of their reach, kids WILL get bored. And when their attention is not held captive by an alluring white screen, they will go searching for one, which will make your gaming consoles or your kids’ unfortunate victims.

Remember the goal you are doing all this de-teching for – it applies to the kids too.

So make sure to gather all the PS3s, PSPs, GameBoys, Nintendo DS’es, Wii’s and even laptops, and lock them up in a room. With their charging cables. Unplug any other non-portable gadgets as a safety measure. You can include the TV but don’t plunge your house in darkness while you’re at it.

5. Penalties!

Here comes the fun part. At some point, someone is going to be a bit jittery after going without their technology for so long. And it’s not even close to gift-time yet. They may attempt to sneak their phones out off the box or bag where you left it (because we are all a bit childish when it comes to our dependence on tech).

Before that could happen though, announce to everyone that the first one to reach for their gadget, or found to be using it, would have to perform a penalty. Here’s where you need to do a bit of homework. The penalties should be bad or embarrassing enough to deter most people from caving in to temptation. Making it entertaining enough for the resilient would be a bonus.

It could be doing the dishes and the kitchen clean up after everyone’s done, or doing a dance that you promise will make its way into Youtube, or you can make them down some yucky mix-up you concocted in the kitchen. The sky (and your grasp of ethics) is the limit.

Remember to have a list because just because someone reached for their gadget first, doesn’t mean everyone else is off the hook. You need them to last at least until it is time to open their gifts.

Let It Go

Once your gifts have been opened, it is time to relax the no-gadgets rule and let everyone find their sanity once again. Bear in mind, that for people who are always with their electronics 24/7, this is very tough for them to experience, and before you laugh off their inadequacies, remember that Christmas is about cheer and togetherness, so don’t be too rigid and overdo this to the point of ruining a Christmas gathering.

Happy de-teching for the holidays, people!