There is little doubt that we are now living in a digital age. We seem to be swimming in a sea of technological gadgets and devices. Even adults can find the sheer volume overwhelming – but what might it be doing to our children? Are you concerned that your child is – or may soon become – a digital addict?
Today the array of devices and gadgets available is considerable, ranging from television to computers to tablets, smartphones and MP3 players – to name just a few.
Concerns about some of these – such as the television – may have been around for decades. But others are more recent and the profusion of still more devices appears to grow all the time, with the development of new technologies limited only by the human imagination.
An independent study from Foresters (the international financial services and membership organisation ) revealed that the average family will only spend 4.4 hours in a weekend socialising together without technology, meaning a real lack of family quality time.
Some research suggests that children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend a staggering seven and a half hours a day feeding their digital addiction – whether this is by watching television, surfing the internet, playing video games or using their smartphones or tablets. Yet other research reveals that more than 20% of parents have no idea what their children may be viewing online.
As our children show signs of becoming digital omnivores, devouring technology on several platforms (often all at once!) the statistics make it difficult to understand how children are finding the time to do anything else – even the most basic of activities like going to school, eating and sleeping. And that is precisely the problem. Immersed in their increasingly digital world, children are finding it more and more difficult to relate to people in the real world and recognise the range of emotions others may feel.
The National Literacy Trust polled 35,000 children and discovered that only 25% of them did any reading outside the classroom, with 20% of them being embarrassed even to be caught reading something as old fashioned as a book.
If these are issues you identify in your own child’s behaviour, perhaps it is the moment to take time out. The Tech Timeout initiative is a campaign aiming to restore a healthy dose of reality to family life – and the goals of the campaign couldn’t be simpler.
It can be summed up by the simple act of turning it off – whatever the digital device or gadget, it has a switch. The switch lets you turn it off. And with the device turned off you might re-establish your bonds with your children (and your partner too), rekindling the art of conversation and actually involving yourselves more closely in each other’s real lives.
What may come as a mixture of surprise and relief is the fact that the Tech Timeout challenge encourages a relatively minor step in the right direction – spending just an hour a day for a week together as a family, with the electronic digital devices safely switched off.
Take the challenge
If you are worried that your child may be becoming a digital addict, if you yourself are headed that way, or if the distance is growing between you and your partner, you might want to pick up the challenge and take your own timeout.
About the author:Steve Dilworth is MD of the Member Network UK at Foresters, the international financial services (FS) and membership organisation. He has extensive experience within the charity and FS sector, with a First Class Honours Degree in Economics and a Degree in FS. He is Chair of Soho Ltd, a subsidiary of Soho Housing Association, and Chairs Bromley Neighbourhood Police Panel. In 2012 he was elected as a Community Champion for the London Borough of Bromley.
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