A weekend with the family.. and without technology!

15 June 2016

Frances Crimmins

Frances Crimmins

Frances is the Executive Director of YWCA Canberra.

This year, our winter appeal is raising money for the YWCA Clubhouse, a free learning space for young people in Tuggeranong to learn and build their confidence through technology.  Supporters can fundraise by taking on the Tech Freeze Challenge – relinquishing technology for a weekend and seeking sponsorship from friends and family for doing so.

Earlier this month, my family took on the Challenge – banishing the internet for a weekend. ‘Piece of cake!’ I thought. However, as the weekend progressed I learnt that it wasn’t that easy after all..

When I first broached the idea of a tech free weekend with my family, the response wasn’t exactly overwhelming. My husband works from home in an IT field, and my daughter (14) and son (11) both rely on the internet for study and entertainment, not to mention their social lives.

I explained that the Tech Freeze Challenge was akin to the 40 hour famine – forgo something that you take for granted, while raising money for a good cause. My kids asked whether they could go without food instead – a telling sign of the times!

As the date got closer, negotiations commenced as the reality of the weekend dawned on my children. In fact, the Challenge made me realise that my children have never known a life without access to the internet – it is astounding to consider how quickly technology has become engrained in our everyday lives.

We remained steadfast and commenced the weekend with good intentions. Unfortunately we all failed – my daughter needed to complete research for an imminent school project and I remembered that I was responsible for coordinating the Under 11s soccer team that weekend – which, of course, is all done via technology.

As a family, we realised that we rely on technology and access to the internet for every facet of our lives – work, study and recreation. The weekend drove home how difficult it can be to operate in our modern society without the technology that so many of us take for granted. But in particular, it highlighted how hard it is for young people to thrive at school and in their learning without access to technology at home.

Internet connection these days is more important than the home phone – and not just for surfing the web. New technologies will continue to transform workplaces, while demand for advanced digital and STEM skills will only rise. It’s crucial that young people are developing digital skills so that they’re equipped to take on jobs of the future.

There are currently four million Australians who are not online. Digital inclusion is affected by affordability and access, as well as digital engagement and confidence.[1]

The Clubhouse aims to tackle this digital divide. As part of a global network of 100 Clubhouses located in 19 countries, the YWCA Clubhouse provides young people from the Tuggeranong region with access to cutting-edge technology, mentors and the chance to design, create and learn in an accessible and fun manner.

A survey conducted earlier this year of more than 1300 young people in Clubhouses across the world found that members gain knowledge and acquire skills in science and technology, and leads them to think more positively and ambitiously about their futures. It has a positive, tangible impact on their attitudes to school, further education, and crucially – to studying STEM.

While we were fortunate to receive fantastic hardware and software from generous corporate partners – the Clubhouse requires ongoing funding to support the full-time, qualified Coordinator who runs the program.

This winter, I urge you to find out more about what we do at the Clubhouse, and support the Tech Freeze Appeal. You can make a donation, sponsor someone taking on the Challenge, or simply raise awareness of digital inclusion by striking up a conversation.

[1] Australian Digital Inclusion Index.

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