My name is Kenny Ball. I'm a husband, father, and former teacher of 14 years. My wife Julie & I have been married 10 years, and our daughter, McKenna (My official Chief Game Tester), is 7 years-old.
We are not anti-smart phone or anti-technology. My wife & I use our smart phones daily to help us manage our business and life tasks. They are amazingly helpful tools. However, we came to the realization not long ago that our screens were occupying too much of our time, and beginning to affect our family relationships.
As a teacher, I also utilized technology in my classroom. Back in 2006, my first year of teaching, I had an overhead projector and a few slow desktops with limited functions. As the years progressed, newer tech allowed me to engage my students in fun & efficient ways. However, over the years, two trends were becoming increasingly disturbing to me.
The first was a very clear decline in students' abilities to focus & concentrate. Another was the ever-persistent drama from social media that spilled over into the school setting. And most disturbing was the trend of hearing students talk about how infrequently their families interacted in the absence of smartphones & other screens. These trends, I realized, were the root of the dramatic rise of social & emotional instability I witnessed in my students.
As a teacher who spent a lot of time & energy building relationships with my students, it was increasingly taking a toll on me. I found myself doing a lot more counseling than I was qualified for. Teaching the content was becoming secondary. I arrived home to my family emotionally & mentally exhausted, unable to give them the energy, or just be the "me" that they used to know.
I had to leave the profession I dearly loved, the only one I'd ever known, to preserve my personal & family health. But I realized that was just one of the problems we faced. The other was the digital distractions in our own home, and the primary offenders were my wife and me. As dedicated workers & avid researchers, our smartphones make it way too convenient for us to overdo it. Add to that the draw of social media, and we had quite the recipe for disengaging from each other and becoming screen zombies.
We started with confronting the problem and strategizing how we would combat it. We didn't desire to go extreme, throw all our devices away, and use only a rotary phone for the rest of our lives. We wanted to balance the need for technology in today's world with the importance of spending focused, engaged time together. We began buying more puzzles, board/card games, & simple crafts. Participating in hands-on activities like these made it a lot easier to put our phones away and be present together. Casual conversations began happening during the activities that reminded my wife & I of the days before smartphones. We were connecting so much better.
Suddenly, we had an epiphany. It used to be that while doing simple tasks, projects, crafts etc. with a loved one, we chatted about things going on in our lives. We shared our feelings, dreams & aspirations. Before smartphones, such "downtime" activities occurred frequently among families, and parents were a lot more in-tune with what was happening in their children's lives. But now, people are becoming increasingly absorbed in their individual, virtual existence. It's a major shift that doesn't come without consequence.
At the same time, families are becoming busier and busier. Parents work long hours, and smartphones have created the expectation that we humans should be ever-present & available. We've found ourselves in an ironic state. The technology that was supposed to make life easier & free up more of our time, has actually complicated our lives and demands more of our time.
One day, as my family was doing a puzzle & enjoying great conversation together, it dawned on me that perhaps other families would find this "old school" way of engaging together helpful, too. Maybe I could build a business that sends a box of interactive activities to families each month, making it easier to put down their digital devices at any moment & engage together, because they'd always have items on-hand.
And so it was that my mission & business of helping families spend more unplugged, focused time together began.
Thanks for reading my story. I hope to welcome you to our subscriber family, and would sincerely love to hear about the fun your family is having together, unplugged.
Founder - Together Unplugged 👨👩👧👦📵