In celebration of the second annual National Unplugging Day in the UK on Sunday, June 26, leading parenting website MyFamilyClub is asking individuals and families to put down their smartphones, tablets and computers for 24 hours to experience life unplugged.
Parenting experts warn that digital distractions are harming relationships, stopping the young from developing face-to-face communication skills and teaching children that disappearing into digital devices for hours, is a healthy and acceptable activity.
The leading parenting website MyFamilyClub.co.uk have carried out a study with over 2,000 parents from across the UK which has some striking statistics, finding the average parent with a smartphone, uses it more than 240 times a day – on emails, texts, chat apps and social media.
The majority of children are using technology for more than 4 hours either side of the school day and 6 hours per day at the weekends totaling a staggering 32 hours spend per week on technology– More than half of the families we surveyed admitted this statistic (54%).
Typically parents’ (73%) are letting their children use their digital screens (made up of predominantly TV and then smartphone/tablet or computer) for more than an hour before they head to school in the morning (Primary and Secondary School) with parents admitting that their children’s concentration levels are affected (49%) and with 28% admitting it was a huge problem for their children’s concentration levels.
The digital usage survey also discovered that families across Britain are letting technology erode their family lives with the phenomenon of ‘Phubbing’ (to phone snub) taking place in their homes. With 67% of parents admitting they are regularly ‘Phubbed’ by their children but felt at a loss of what to do.
Gemma Johnson CEO and Founder of MyFamilyClub.co.uk said: “The more I look around the more desperate I feel that our children are losing their childhoods. Gone are the days it’s seems of being carefree and discovering the world around them and the beauty of human interaction and connection. Hours spent in front of a screen day in, day out is destroying not only our children’s minds but also their bodies. When are we as parents going to take responsibility for our children’s health when it comes to too much screen time, the eroding of family values which are important for children to feel safe and secure, but also their overall well-being from a mental, emotional and physical perspective. National Unplugging Day is just the very start of a passionate campaign to generate more awareness amongst parents to take notice of what’s happening day to day but also a ‘flag in the sand’ to tech companies, brands and other companies that are benefiting from children overusing technology. It’s time ethics come in to play and they also take some responsibility for the damage to our young.
Johnson adds: Let’s start with our own behaviour as parents by being aware of our own usage and emotions that trigger us to reach for our devices. Once we are aware and comfortable with our own usage, we can then set an example for our children. National Unplugging Day is a gentle reminder that you can free yourself for just a day, anytime you please. Living live ‘off the grid’ for what seems to be a mere moment in time. Enjoy it! And the sense of closeness it can bring to you all as a family.”
This family digital usage survey concludes that parents and their children are increasingly showing the signs of smartphone addiction. As smartphones invade our daily activities, parents are increasingly less present and now this has transcended onto our children with mental health officials now warning about the long term effects on children’s health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) - one of the only established organisations to make recommendations on screen time across the world -- offers guidelines that put limits on media exposure. Studies have shown a link between heavy media use and issues such as obesity, lack of sleep, academic challenges, aggression, and other behaviour difficulties.
Leading Psychotherapist Hilda Burke comments “Literally from the moment of birth, children are observing their parents’ behaviour. In time, they will try and emulate their parents as this is how we make our first tentative developmental steps (literally and figuratively). Seen in this light, it is no surprise that very high digital usage in adults is reflected in children. However, if we adopt healthy boundaries around digital devices ie our children see us switch off / put away our phones when guests come for dinner or when we play with them, they will learn valuable lessons about how there is a time and a place to use our devices and that it’s up to us to regulate our usage.”
National Unplugging Day recognises the value and importance of technology in today’s society whilst trying to encourage people (especially families and young children, the connected generations who have grown up with ever-present technology), to be more mindful of their digital usage. This day is not intended to be a one-off, but rather a starting point to encourage people of all ages to embrace a healthy lifestyle by regularly setting aside time away from their digital devices.