If you feel like you’re surgically attached to your digital device you’re not alone. It’s such a common problem there’s actually a whole day dedicated to going cold turkey on smartphones.
National Unplugging Day was launched by MyFamilyClub.co.uk last year to encourage parents to experience life with their own eyes, without the filter of a screen, for a whole 24 hours. It’s coming up again: Sunday, June 28 is the day to go unplugged. No phones, no tablets, no laptops.
Think you could do it? It won’t be easy for most of us. We’re so entrenched in the habit of checking our texts, emails and social media accounts, whenever and wherever we like, that we do it without even thinking.
According to MyFamilyClub.co.uk, a study of over 6,000 parents from across the U.K. has revealed that the average smartphone-owning parent uses it 240 times a day. When you realise that amounts to around four hours per day it’s kind of scary.
Of course, we’re not talking about four hours of constant smartphone use. I don’t think I use my phone that much throughout the day but I know the quick email checks while waiting for the kids to come out of school, and the Twitter scrolling I do to pass the time while dinner is cooking, all add up to more time than I’d care to admit. I work from home, so I have to spend a lot of time on my laptop, but I think this works in my favour as the last thing I want to do when work is finished is stare at a screen.
Also the internet has changed how we do everything. Instead of driving to the nearest shopping centre and dragging my bored children around for hours, I do the majority of my shopping online. I haven’t bought a newspaper for years; I have all the breaking news right there on my Twitter feed.
I never play games on my phone or tablet and do feel that whatever I’m doing is in some way useful, educational or worthwhile (not to mention necessary as I’d be out of a job without the internet).
Having said that I can totally see how I could take steps to cut down on the time I spend online — in front of my kids at least. Let’s face it nothing so exciting ever happens on Facebook that I can’t wait until they’re asleep to log on.
Ultimately kids copy their parents’ behaviour so if you’re constantly plugged into some mysterious, more exciting digital world they’re going to want to go there too. But they should be doing other stuff, stuff that all kids should be doing: building Lego, constructing a den in the living room, making a big old mess with paint on the kitchen table. They have plenty of time to get addicted to smartphones when they’re old enough to make that decision for themselves.
Gemma Johnson, CEO and founder of MyFamilyClub.co.uk, understands how hard it can be to find a healthy balance between family life and the demands of living in a digital world.
“I certainly didn’t realise how much time I was spending on my smartphone until my oldest son pointed it out, this is why this campaign is so important to me,” she said. “We all lead busy lives but it is so important to lead by example with our device usage, boundaries are set by the parents first. We want to encourage the nation to put away their digital devices, unplug and pledge to spend time doing something different with their children such as going out for a bike ride, going to the park, learning a new activity or taking a walk in the woods.”
I’ve taken a big step already — deleted all the apps from my smartphone so that I can only access them from my laptop. No more mindless scrolling in the supermarket queue or at the park. I’ll definitely be unplugging on June 28 and intend to make it a regular occurrence. Because my kids deserve it.
Find out more about National Unplugging Day.
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