Parenting like it’s 1986: Couple bans modern tech to inspire kids

When TODAY Moms first reached out to Blair McMillan, we spent nearly an hour dialing, then dialing again, only to hear a busy signal on the other end of the phone.

“Sorry about that,” McMillan said with a laugh, “we don’t have call waiting. Or an answering machine for that matter!”

What? No call waiting? No answering machine? What is it, 1986?


Stay-at-home dad McMillan, 26, is what you might call a pioneer, although instead of trailblazing ahead, McMillan has decided to take a step back.

McMillan and his girlfriend, Morgan Patey, 27, live in Guelph, Ontario, with their two sons Trey, 5 and Denton, 2. In April, McMillan had a frustrating conversation with his eldest son.

“It was a beautiful day and I asked Trey if he wanted to go outside,” shares McMillan. “Trey didn’t even look up from the tablet he was playing on and told me he didn’t want to go. It got me thinking that when Morgan and I were kids, this kind of technology didn’t exist and we were always playing outside.”

His idea sparked from there: For one year, the family would live like it was 1986, the year that Blair and Morgan were born.

“We packed up our computers, tablets, cell phones, flat screen TVs and so on and put them into storage,” says McMillan. “Instead we bought an old wooden TV, a radio, a rotary phone and a Nintendo!”

The transition was surprisingly easy, for the boys at least. They were young enough to adapt without putting up too much of a fight. But Blair and Morgan had a more difficult time acclimating to their new house rules, which prohibit cell phones, computers, and any post-1986 technology.

“It took Morgan a little longer to get used to the idea,” admits McMillan, “but as it got closer and closer to the day we were going to shut everything down and I started signing out of my email and social media accounts, I started feeling like, ‘Holy cow, what have I done?’”

Instead, shutting their family off from the normal barrage of technology opened up new doors, both literally and figuratively. After dinner, the family has to find an activity to occupy their time. They adopted a dog so they could go on walks. They play outside or go to the splash park.

“As parents, we communicate more and have become way more hands on,” says McMillan, who is a self-proclaimed chatterbox now. “Instead of a tablet teaching my child what the color ‘orange’ is, we have to go outside and show the boys what the color looks like ourselves. What’s funny is that the simplest things are now the things that entertain Trey the most. He loves to go outside and pull weeds with me or turn over rocks and find bugs.”

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