The Age of Disconnect

Some thoughts on families and Fortnite

The Age of Disconnect

I’m raising two little boys in the age of Fortnite and iPhones and, like so many of you, I spend a lot of time thinking about things like screen time, connectedness, and cyberbullying. I hover around when they watch YouTube and stay close when they’ve got on those headsets and begin talking to their gaming friends (who are all their friends in real life) as if they were completely different people — who aren’t especially kind.

And I’ve noticed that they feel further away a lot of the time, and that translates to the whole family feeling stretched apart, frayed a bit at the seams. I want to mend those vulnerable stitches between us and reinforce them.

And I know I’m supposed to be talking about romance here, but, realistically, during this part of my life, the romance I experience has a lot more to do with sitting down with my husband, taking a breath, and acknowledging together that we haven’t completely screwed this family thing up yet than it does with roses and candlelight.

So in trying to get my kids to actually connect, to step away from the screens, and to practice being kind, I’ve started planning “family dates.” (See? Romantic, no?) This Saturday, we had a date at an escape room and then went to dinner.

We spent an hour “locked” in a little room, working together to solve a mystery. No one checked a phone or mentioned Fortnite, and the best thing was that (for the most part) everyone communicated and cooperated. Kind words were said. Enthusiasm was shared. And at dinner after we’d solved the mystery? My kids were more enthusiastic and communicative than I’ve seen them in a long time.

I don’t know if the magic only happens when you’re locked in a room together for an hour working on a problem. I suspect not. I think it comes more from sharing time and experiences, from focusing on one thing at a time — each other.

My discovery is not groundbreaking. It’s common sense that this kind of experience would be helpful in rebuilding bonds. But it’s also easy to procrastinate the planning and work it takes to orchestrate something like this, and then months go by and we realize we haven’t actually talked to our kids about anything besides homework or soccer in forever.

So this is my reminder to myself and to other parents: Take the time, plan the thing, and then turn off your phones and go do it. All the iPhones and Fortnite in the world won’t make your kids as happy as your time, and when your kids are happy, aren’t you?

See? That’s romantic right there.

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