Going on a digital diet

In the life time of my daughter, who is 8 years old, the world of technology has changed beyond recognition. The rise and rise of smartphones and tablet computers means that we’re plugged in virtually for every minute of our waking day. Like millions of other Britons one of the first things that I do every morning after I wake up is turn on my smartphone. I check it regularly and it goes every where with me; a bit like an adult version of a comfort blanket.

Technology has brought us huge benefits in the way that we communicate. However – the relentless rise of screen time has happened without any rules of engagement. There are no social norms around how we should use technology that can be held in the palm of our hand. How many of us have sent an email or text and expect a reply within minutes and we start to get anxious if we haven’t heard back after a few hours. It feels like that you’re not part of the crowd if you’re unplugged or away from a digital device even if just for a short time.

Research has shown that we’re spending more and more time staring at screens of various devices. This naturally means that screen time is displacing something else – the ability to tune out, the ability to connect with the world around us and a massive impact on outdoors and time with nature.

And the phenomenon of split screening means that we can watch one screen, usually a TV, while checking our twitter feed or perhaps replying to those work emails that you didn’t finish off.

That is why National Unplugging Day is such a worthwhile initiative. It only had to be a matter of time. Technology is starting to impact upon the richness of human face to face communication and that sense of a real community. Screen addiction is becoming a condition that needs treatment affecting more and more children.

But don’t just switch off for one day. Like anything that you know that you should have less of its easy to do things in bite sized chunks. Don’t switch your phone on first thing in the morning. Maybe when you walk to to work or the station, instead of checking your phone every ten seconds look around you and try to listen to the soundtrack on your journey. You could start to ration how much you use your smartphone or tablet computer during the evenings or at weekends.

Its amazing how much more time you’ll have to talk to people, simply do nothing or get out and enjoy the wonder of nature.

We should be in control of technology rather than letting technology control us.

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