I am excited to present Laura Pedersen, author of Unplugged, Ella Gets Her Family Back. When I was recently shopping a small book shop with creaky floors (I love creaky bookstores), I found Laura’s book, Unplugged Ella Gets Her Family Back. I immediately read through it and loved it. Laura brings up some real issues in her book regarding electronics and some practical solutions on how we can connect better with our family. I asked Laura some questions about Unplugged and some tips for parents….
1. What inspired you to write Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back?
When I was growing up most families went on a long car trip in the summer, usually to visit relatives but sometimes to an amusement park or a historical site such as Gettysburg, PA. The routine was pretty much the same — Dad spent hours and hours packing the trunk or roof of the car, Mom made sandwiches to eat along the way since restaurant food was too expensive, and brothers and sisters sat in the back alternatively playing and arguing with each other. The playing involved games such as License Plate Bingo, Twenty Questions and Counting Cows. The fighting revolved around someone purposely poking someone else but claiming it was an accident or else taking up more than their fair share of space, and ended only when Dad threatened to stop the car or turn around and go home. People of a certain age all have memories of these trips (for better or worse) and I wonder if with all these newfangled devices that occupy and entertain us it’s still possible to play old-fashioned games and spend time talking (and arguing) with our families to create these cherished memories.
2. What is your perspective on today’s world of technology and raising children?
When automobiles first arrived on the roads it was a miracle to have this new form of personal transportation. Plus people could get medical attention faster and the fire department could arrive more quickly. They saved lives. That said, kids were used to playing in the streets and there weren’t speed limits, traffic lights, seat belts, rules of the road, or driver’s etiquette. People got hurt. I think we’re in a similar period with devices and still working out their place in our lives with all the positives and negatives that accompany such a great leap forward. Likewise, it’s important that we also have a user etiquette component when it comes to technology, which means it’s not a law or written rule but just behaviors we observe to be respectful to others, such as not using a phone at the table.
3. Can you provide any tips for parents on how to achieve a healthy balance of screen time and quality time with the family?
Based on my experiences it’s an ongoing battle, or let’s rather call it a challenge, like dieting. You probably heard that actress Patti LuPone took a cell phone from a theatergoer during her play last week. Our devices can be addictive and we rely on them more and more so it’s just like having whatever your favorite food is within reach and still making the decision that you’ll eat as healthfully as possible, at meal times, and in moderation. However, most of us have to remind ourselves of this every day because temptation is temptation. Or to paraphrase the Bible, Lead me not into temptation because I can find the way myself. There’s a sweet little girl at my church named Amara who loves UNPLUGGED and when her parents were on their phones at inappropriate times Amara would call them out on it. But this year Amara has become “overly engaged with screens” in her mom’s words and they are re-reading UNPLUGGED to remind her about making time for real people in real time.