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Image for Is It Time For A Digital Detox?

Article by Sophie Astin | 21st February 2019

Is It Time For A Digital Detox?

From parenting tips to DIY flatpacks – gone are the days when your parents showed or told you how… today everything from potty training to putting up a shelf can be found on Google and it seems we can’t even go to bed at night – or to the loo! – and not take our phone with us! Is it time to detox and ditch the technology and could your wellbeing benefit from a social media holiday?

Last year, 2018, saw the world’s active internet users exceed a mind-blowing four billion, with 55.1% of the global population now online. Much of this growth in internet users has been driven by more affordable smartphones and mobile data plans, with two-thirds of the world’s seven billion-plus inhabitants now having access to a mobile phone. Furthermore, more than three billion people around the world now use social media each month, with nine in 10 of those accessing their chosen platforms via mobile devices.

It is getting harder to remember a time when we couldn’t access information 24/7 at the click of a button. Even the term ‘logging on’ is fast becoming defunct – we are, it seems, always connected, whether at home, at work, at the gym, in the school playground – even 30,000ft up in the air. We inhabit a world viewed through an Instagram lens, we live in the moment via Twitter – including world leaders like Donald Trump – and news reports now zip round the globe in a heartbeat, not thanks to the efficiency of news reporters but due to nimble-fingered armchair journalists, sharing the news as it breaks on social media. It’s a world that our children find hard to comprehend as anything other than completely normal.

Parents behaving badly

While many of us may have made it our New Year’s resolution to cut down on relying so heavily on technology and our devices, it seems that our children want us to do the same. A report published in January by the UK’s largest online platform for childcarers, parents and tutors – Childcare.co.uk which has more than 1.5 million users nationwide – has revealed that more than half (51%) of children want their parents to use their phones less as a New Year’s resolution compared to just a quarter that want them to quit smoking.

According to the survey, parents spend on average three hours a day on their phones, with Facebook the most popular platform. Due to the survey results, Childcare.co.uk asked the 2,166 parents surveyed to anonymously submit their screen time usage and discovered that the respondents were on their phones for three hours a day on average.

• More than half (53%) spend most of their phone time on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Instagram.
• 22% spend their time on games, such as Candy Crush and Words With Friends.

Founder of Childcare.co.uk Richard Conway said: “Some of the answers were resolutions that benefit the children which can be expected, but some highlight a wider issue in our society. We live in a digital age and children are used to technology being a regular fixture in our lives, however the survey results indicate that children are very aware of how much time we spend on our phones, so maybe we should make a conscious effort to be aware of it as well and take action.”

• To see the full survey results, visit childcare.co.uk/blog/resolutions

Meanwhile… American/Italian restaurant chain Frankie & Benny’s recently took the extreme step to encourage diners to focus on their friends, family and food when dining by banning customers from using their mobile phones while eating dinner, offering a ‘kids eat free’ bonus to anyone who agreed.

The campaign ran for a week during 2018 at restaurants at home and abroad, and may now be rolled out permanently. The decision to run the scheme came after a nationwide study found as many as 72% of youngsters wish their parents would spend less time on their phones and more time talking to them.

Can taking a social media holiday benefit your mental health?

Has our need to keep people updated on our every move or thought gone too far? There can be big benefits to taking some time off social media, however, by logging-out and tuning-in to other means of social interaction. Taking a ‘social media holiday’, where you meet and speak to people in person, might just be the break that you need. Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services for AXA PPP Healthcare, shares some tips if you’re considering taking a social media holiday:

• Suspend your accounts – suspending them for a week means you can take a break without the temptation to check for any new notifications.
• Make an effort to meet with friends face-to-face – you may find that cutting down on your social media time leaves a temporary void so arrange to see friends and family personally and you’ll feel in touch when you’re off-line.
• Enjoy the gift of renewed focus – think of all the occasions when your attention was split between checking social media and having a conversation or watching TV or walking along and just tune into the moment of what you’re doing without the distraction.
• Get an alarm clock – using your phone as an alarm can make it tempting to automatically check the online scene the minute you’re getting up. Having a separate alarm clock removes that temptation.
• If you find you crave social media, try checking out apps designed to block certain sites at certain times of the day. This helps to avoid that mindless checking and re-checking we all fall victim to!
• It has never been easier for us to stay connected with one another, to receive updates on what each of our friends are doing – but it is easy to forget that this is not always a healthy or desirable option.


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