10 Aug Digital Detox in the News
Any long term followers of Time to Log Off will know that we have been banging the proverbial digital detox drum for a while now. From as far back as 2014 we set out to nvestigate what a healthy use of screens looks like and help others discover the joy that can come with regular breaks from our digitally connected world.
So, to see the UK national press devoting more and more coverage to the potential issues caused by overuse of technology feels like a big win. In the last year, and particularly in the last few months, we have seen more and more articles that cover a range of related topics, whether that’s highlighting the dangers of social media for our children, or how smartphone addiction can have deadly consequences. Ofcom’s latest report on digital dependency has also prompted people to start talking. So let’s round up digital detox in the news.
Social Media Addiction
Last Monday, founder Tanya Goodin featured in a Metro piece that highlighted recent research that found a link between emotional maturity and social media usage. One of Britain’s leading brain scientists Baroness Susan Greenfield, has raised concerns that children are losing the ability to think for themselves, empathise with others and communicate effectively. She argues that children are opting for the instant gratification that social media provides, something that they begin to rely on, and in turn has an effect on a child’s own “inner narrative”.
As Tanya says in the article, “the digital world fills any impulse children may have to occupy or entertain themselves by providing non-stop 24/7 entertainment, with 1% of UK under fives having their own smartphone their digital reliance is coming earlier and earlier.”
Greenfield’s comments were also covered in The Independent, who amongst other things, referenced the letter that US child welfare experts wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, urging the Facebook founder to remove their messaging app aimed specifically at children.
Clearly, the dangers of too much social media are now on a lot of agendas, something highlighted by extended coverage in the BBC. The long read focuses on the Scroll Free September campaign – something we are right behind. #ScrollFreeSeptember is all about getting off social media for a month to establish a healthier way of using it, whether that’s by going completely cold turkey or by logging-off after 6pm and trying out how each approach feels.
Encouragingly, the BBC has used the RSPH initiative to highlight real life stories in their report. One teenager explains how she feels like a “slave to her phone”, another expresses how she is starting Sixth Form in September and wants to keep social media usage separate. The self awareness of this generation is certainly encouraging. Perhaps the most high profile case recently has been Russell Kane, who has admitted he is receiving counselling to help him with an internet addiction that is “affecting his life” and left him “no longer in control.”
Social media addiction may be seeing the most news coverage at the moment, but that’s not to say other forms of digital addiction are falling by the wayside. One rather startling effect of smartphone addiction was covered in iNews this week – that it can potentially cause car accidents. In the article, road safety charity Brake reference Ofcom’s new findings, that “the average Briton checks their phone every 12 minutes and spends nearly three and a half hours a day looking at a mobile device.” These stats suggests that distraction at the wheel is very probable ndeed and the effects can be deadly. According to Brake, in 2016, 32 people were killed and 105 seriously injured in crashes involving a driver being distracted by their mobile phone, and Ofcom’s recent stats suggest this amount could increase.
In the Times, one brave journalist gave up his smartphone for a week in favour of a stripped back Nokia which only has 2G. He experienced the type of issues you might expect – having to print off a map rather than relying on Google Maps, no more Uber, or online banking. However, he also recognised the mental upside to taking some time away from constant smartphone use.
Elsewhere, Mashable covered Facebook and Google’s leap to try and solve phone addiction themselves, in the Evening Standard there was a print write up which did the same with a more positive view, and the Telegraph explained the link found between video game addiction and depression. So much coverage in the press around the potential dangers of digital addiction can only be a good thing, and we hope it will trigger more public awareness that will help to address the issues of phone dependency and screen overuse before we all discover they are getting worse.