Christmas has come and gone, but the school holidays are still in session. This is the perfect time for kids to do what kids do best – play and have fun. Unfortunately, for most school-aged children this means hours spent on gaming consoles, texting their friends, or binge-watching their favourite shows on Netflix.
If you want to ensure that your child gets the fresh air, exercise, and sleep that they need in order to be healthy and happy these holidays, then you may want to consider limiting their screen-time. But it’s not just young people who can benefit from unplugging – a large number of parents are guilty of being distracted by their digital devices. So, instead of letting your online world take up a disproportionate amount of your time and energy – why not put your family on a digital detox over the summer holidays?
What Is A Digital Detox?
Just as with any period of detoxification, a digital detox refers to a process or period of time within which a person chooses to abstain from using technology in order to break unhealthy habits, reduce stress, and be fully present without digital distractions.
We live in digitally dependent times and children need to use electronic devices in order to complete their school work, establish their identities, and maintain relationships. Yet it’s all too easy for daily use of technology to veer into dangerous territory and for children to rely too heavily on stimulation from screens. Brisbane-based 11-year-old, Hunter Barrett, recognised that a growing number of his peers were displaying signs of Internet addiction, and started a Statewide campaign for his peers to go 30-days without screen time over the school summer holidays (3). The idea has gained a lot of traction in local communities who recognise the need for families to unplug and focus more on having real-life connections rather than worrying about their WiFi connections.
“You’ve probably seen on Instagram and Facebook that there’s a lot of pictures of the world and it’s really beautiful, but you’re just looking at it on Instagram …you might as well just go and look at it yourself.” – Hunter Barrett, 11-year-old boy.
Why Your Family Will Benefit From A Digital Detox
- The average adult will spend nearly 9 hours a day staring at a screen (2)
- The average child spends 6 and a half hours on screens every day (2)
- 1 in 5 teens will wake throughout the night to check their phones (4)
- 89% of teenagers will reach for their phone within 15 minutes of waking up (4)
When it comes to children and the Internet, the stories that make headlines tend to be ones that play on our parental fears, such as online grooming and sexual solicitation. While these risks are serious, they usually aren’t very common. Yet, the following health and wellbeing concerns are far more likely to impact young people who regularly use digital devices and the Internet:
- Digital addiction
- Sedentariness and ergonomics
- Sleep deprivation
- Lack of concentration
- Distracted from homework
- Decreased physical activity
Heightened social media consumption and Internet usage can also predispose children to experiencing self-esteem issues, cyberbullying, and anxiety and depression. All the more reason for your family to commit to a digital detox these summer holidays!
Digital Detox Tips For Parents
1. Plan ahead: Your family digital detox is far more likely to be effective if you plan ahead and don’t just thrust the decision upon your kids last minute. Give them time to prepare, to forewarn their social networks of their upcoming leave of absence, and to wean themselves off as much as possible. You should also come up with a plan that works for your family. Are you going cold turkey and unplugging the WiFi router? Or are you going to enforce a device-free hour each day? Alternatively, you could only permit devices for one hour per day; whichever is most likely to yield results and be plausible.
2. Explain why: Depending on how old your children are, it might be worthwhile taking the time to explain why you’ve made the decision to go on a digital detox. If the detox just seems like an arbitrary or unfair decision you’ve made, your child may not respect the decision and could, therefore, be motivated to circumvent your lockdown. Do your best to tailor the explanation to their frame of reference; if it resonates with them personally, they’re far more like to see the value in it and make the most of it.
3. Join in: A digital detox works best if everyone in the household gets involved. Of course, adults aren’t always afforded the same holiday period as school-kids, so you may need access to your laptop or phone for work purposes. If you can’t commit to a completely Internet and device free summer, then at least limit your hours of accessibility (preferably to when the kids can’t see you).
4. Help your children to come up with fun activities: They say that only boring people get bored, but sometimes it helps to come up with a few fun activities to help stimulate your child’s sense of adventure and imagination. A child’s definition of fun can vary with age, but family trips to the beach or local pool tend to be a favourite summer holiday activity for kids of all ages.
5. Reflect: It’s up to you how you want to enforce this, but reflection is a key part of a digital detox. Maybe encourage your family to keep a digital detox diary where they log their offline adventures? Or dedicate some time at the dinner table to discussing a highlight and lowlight of their device-free-day? The key here is to get your child to consciously reflect on the role that technology plays in their life and to critically evaluate it.
There’s no shortage of articles detailing how perilous and bad the Internet is for our children, yet there also seems to be an equal amount of research telling us that it’s infinitely beneficial. It’s easy to understand why some parents find it so difficult to navigate cyber safety and screen-time. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to cyber safety that will apply to every single child, but it is safe to say that every single child will benefit from having some time out from technology!
1. John Fort, 2017. 6 Tips For A Successful Family Digital Detox.
2. Time To Log Off. Digital Detox Facts.
4. Rawhide. Teen Smartphone Addiction: It Gets Physical.