Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: Signs That It's Time for a Digital Detox

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: Signs That It's Time for a Digital Detox

Article excerpt

A year ago, Tony Krieg, 43, witnessed a scene in a restaurant that changed his retirement plans.

He watched as parents brought their young son to a Texas Roadhouse restaurant for a birthday party. The parents steered the boy, who looked to be about 9 years old, by guiding him from the back of his head through the aisle while the boy stared down at his iPad.

"Not once did that little boy look up" through the entire party, he said. Krieg, who lives in Festus, sold an electronics recycling business he had run for 18 years and purchased his dream property, a 167-acre farm in Dittmer.

He's decided to use that farm to invite families to spend the day away from their devices and learn a little bit about life away from constant connectivity.

"The goal is to get kids off electronics and show them there is a life outside of that, especially in the outdoors," he said. They will have fishing, hiking, arrowhead hunting, creek exploring, along with short presentations on topics like recycling, composting and gardening.

They have filed as a nonprofit, set up a website, missourikidsunplugged.zone and planned a fundraiser in March to cover some expenses. Last year, he estimates spending between $12,000 to $15,000 out of pocket so 400 people could visit and take part in activities at the farm. He also provided food and some entertainment. They want to try to offer the visits for free to thousands of children, including inner-city kids who may never have been on a farm before.

He and his wife have four children, ages 16 to 23, and they have always enforced some rules around technology use.

"We're not talking about living off the grid," he said. "We're talking about common sense boundaries. Let's have families again."

Ronald Dahl, professor of community health and human development at the University of California, Berkeley, spoke recently about adolescent brain development at a seminar for education writers. I asked him about the long-term impact of screen-saturated childhoods on teenage brains.

The jury is still out on what these impacts will be, he said. But there are two areas in which experts agree that a high-volume tech habit has negative affects: sleep and attention span. …

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