Digital detox refers to a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic connecting devices such as smartphones and computers. It is regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
This week I listened to a fascinating radio programme about a group of school children who were challenged to undertake a digital detox for a week.
Some of them lasted the whole week, whereas others coped for only 8 hours before plugging in . It was compelling listening. And it got me thinking about whether I would like to take part in a digital detox.
Growing up in the 80s, I was no stranger to the emerging digital world. I too played ping pong on one of the early computers and made it as far as 80% through the Hobbit on my ZX Spectrum (I even read the book to work out my strategy. I was a bit of a geek then – I should have stuck with that).
The youngest child and therefore the last living at at home, I was the resident expert at using the video recorder to record programmes and I was a dab hand at taping the Top 40 on a Sunday night. But that was as far as it went.
I love that I grew up before digital really took off. My son is fascinated by my stories of having to use an actual telephone to speak to friends, go to the library to research information and play board games – he genuinely sees me as someone who lived in the ‘olden days’.
When he tells me how much better it is to be a kid now, I like to pretend that we had a superior existence back then; that we appreciated things more and we had a greater quality of life. It amuses me to play the old-fart hand. But let’s get real – it’s total bullshit!
How fab to be able to research your homework at a press of a button and connect with your age-group across social media? And gaming, which has been around for decades now, is more social than before, as kids can chat to their friends rather than shutting themselves away to play alone. As a sibling of a child with special needs, this interaction is important to my older son and I love listening to him giggling with his mates.
Yes there are dangers. Huge ones. And we have to be aware of that and educate our kids to use social media and gaming in the right way, so they can be safe. And take our own advice. But life was no less dangerous when I was a kid – we all remember Charlie telling us not to talk to people with puppies. Education is the key, and parental awareness.
One of the discussion points in the programme was around my age-group being unaware of what it is like to have always had access to the digital world. Our children simply can’t comprehend life without it, and we don’t always appreciate the pressure this puts on them.
I used to hold some old-fashioned views about the digital world. I called them ‘values’. But as my younger son’s autism became apparent, giving him access to digital unlocked a world that he could understand. It was also the first time he actually coped with sitting still in a room for longer than a nanosecond. This wasn’t lazy parenting. I defy anyone who has experienced two years of a house-trashing whirlwind not to turn to something that works. So we introduced him to digital much earlier than his brother, who was the last kid in his class to get a Nintendo DS.
Purchasing an ipad was the turning point for our younger son and what he gained from that was an ability to focus, sit still and unwind. He’s been able to apply that to other situations in the physical world, but make no mistake; it started with digital. I feel so sad for previous generations of children with ASD that they didn’t have access to this stuff; it helps them in so many ways.
Some non-verbal children (and adults) are able to use it to verbalise their requests or needs – something they couldn’t do in previous years. Imagine knowing what you want, having the words in your head and not being able to verbalise them. Did anyone even realise that they could communicate with the right tools, or did they just write them off? How frightening that must have been for them. I can hardly bear to think about it.
And me? As a special needs parent, it provides a network of support and information that was lacking in my day-to-day life as a novice special needs parent. I’ve used it to promote my work and my business. I’ve connected with other copywriters – who have been unreservedly generous with their support and knowledge-sharing. And it’s a source of entertainment. Not to mention a great shopping experience.
So big thumbs down for the digital detox in this house. Don’t get me wrong – listening to kids talking about their experiences was thought-provoking and I’ve picked up some great ideas and tips. It’s also instigated a very sensible discussion with my older son about how we can achieve a greater balance moving forward. Used in the right way, the digital world enhances our life.
So, I wouldn’t be without it. And if you listen carefully, you might just hear my 12 year old breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Over to you
What does the digital world bring to your life? Could you live without it for a week? Is it the root of all evil? Or do those of us who grew up without it need to get over ourselves?
I’d love to hear from you.
Have a great weekend.
Alison is a Freelance Copywriter in Milton Keynes offering a range of services for small and large organisations in MK and across the UK. For further information visit www.mkwordstudio.co.uk