Turning Off From the On

You are not going to believe this, but I just found a button on my phone, as discrete and hidden as a latch to a secret door. Do you have any idea what that button does?  It turns off the phone.

Can you believe it? They turn off. I knew we could silence them, but really, they still buzz like toddlers tugging on your sleeves and hearts. I had no idea they actually turn off.

Maybe we can Turn Off from the On.

I thought of this phrase because it reminds me of a line from a movie I love and highly recommend, Home, (by DreamWorks…based on a book called, The True Meaning of Smeckday, by Adam Rex).  In the story an adorably annoying alien has been locked in the refrigerator section of a convenience store by a girl, and he asks her to please, “Let me Into the Out.”

Because he is trapped he has a new respect and love of the Out.  When I begin to realize how constantly my devices are on, I have a new respect and love of the Off.

Now that I’ve told you about that secret off button, we can start deciding, based on our own family’s values, when we need to Turn Off from the On. We know there is an enormous difference between the quality of our focus and attention when we are In the On and when we are Off of the On.

During our CyberStrong talks, many parents express concern that they spend more time on their devices than makes sense when it comes to their own values.  Exercise, meals, homework, laundry, gathering with others, problem solving, sharing parental wisdom and many other family activities often suffer.

It’s easier to make changes, like turning off our phones, by experiencing how the old behavior feels next to the new behavior, for example, walking around the shoe department wearing one old and one new sneaker to get a feel for them.  (Though maybe I’m the only one who does that.)


Have three family meals in a row. During the first one makes sure every device that could demand your family’s attention be turned on with full volume. For the second one make sure all the devices are turned to vibrate. For the third make sure all the devices are off. Talk about the differences. Talk about the discomfort of having them on… and off. Do this same experiment with family games, time in the car, family discussions, movie watching, friends over, bed time routines or whatever might be fun and interesting to try. Remember everyone gets to voice their opinion without any judgement from others. Based on these exercises make some guidelines for your family’s Turning Off from the On.

Elizabeth Clark

About the Author

Elizabeth Clark has been a mental health therapist for teens and families for thirty years.  She is a presenter for CyberStrong, a collaborative community effort, funded by the Western Colorado Community Foundation, to raise awareness and give skills to parents and educators about the influence of technology on our children, families and community.