Every kid should experience playing outside making mud pies, pulling worms from the earth and climbing trees. And on a rainy day when the outside may not be quite as appealing, kids should be role playing, building cardboard box castles and stripping the sofa apart to create the ultimate fort. So why do we now have a generation of kids who are glued to their ipads, laptops and even the good-old-fashioned telly? With these tech-y kids we are also seeing a rise in obesity, failing school grades and even health conditions developing from the lack of outside fun, such as Vitamin D deficiencies.
Of course the modern world has bought change, and even in my 26 years a lot has changed when it comes to how kids play than when I was a youngster. I never had a computer to stare at and growing up with my nan and granddad we didn’t even get a coloured TV until I was 14 years old (2004 btw). Everything was better then, spending hours playing by the brook or just walking miles across fields. My daughters now know how to work the iPad. My 4 year old is confident with this, and so is my 2 year old. My 1 year old even knows how to ‘tap and slide’, and I wouldn’t say that technology is in heavy use in our house at all. Maybe once or twice a week the girls get a few minutes on the iPad playing on the Cbeebies app.
On Sunday 26th of June sees the UK’s second ever National Unplugging Day where we are all urged to put down our smart tech for just 24 hours to see how it feels to live life unplugged and pledge to #GoGadgetFree. Traditional families are under attack from this quickly-changing world of technology. And while the 26th of June may be a walk in the park for my family, many modern families may actually struggle without using an app for this, that and the other. Some families may even realise that we can live a normal life without our heads buried in a device, even if it is just for 24hours.
Remember a time when Apple and Blackberry were just fruit? Those were good days (and I’m not saying now that we have technology all is bad- far from it!).
The leading parenting website MyFamilyClub have carried out a study with over 2000 parents from across the UK which had some striking statistics and found that the average parent spends up to 5 hours per day on a smartphone. Typically their children are spending similar times using screens with 80% of children spending 4-5 hours per day on digital devices and with 15% of children spending in excess of 6 hours of screen time across various devices.
Nearly all the parents surveyed (87%) agreed that technology is damaging to their children’s childhood and nearly all the parents surveyed (94%) wanted the tech industry to help educate them and offer guidelines for safe usage. The statistics also show that more than half of parents (51%) would like to go back to the days of no technology or smartphones and a life less complicated.
The survey also discovered that 41% of parents agreed that family times are ruined from digital distractions and 42% of parents said they use technology to calm their children down or to stop family arguments. Parenting expert Gemma Johnson CEO and Founder of MyFamilyClub.co.uk says “As a parent I experience the struggle trying to juggle work and family life and the additional demands of existing in a digital world. We all lead busy lives but it is so important to lead by example with our device usage, boundaries are set by the parents first We want to encourage the nation to put away their digital devices, unplug and pledge to spend time doing something different with their children such as going out for a bike ride, going the park, learning a new activity or taking a walk in the woods.”
Johnson adds: We are encouraging people to unplug and engage in life without a digital connection and be present for our children. I’m urging all individuals to check how much they are using technology and look at the impact it is having on those around you. I certainly didn’t realise how much time I was spending on my smart phone until my oldest son pointed it out, this is why this campaign is so important to me.”
The statistics also revealed that more than a third of parents (37%) agree that communication with their children is being harmed by today’s technology.
As smartphones and advances in technology invade our daily activities, parents are increasingly less present and available for their children and mental health officials are very worried on the long term effects this may have on our children. Dr Mark Silvert, Medical Director & Consultant Psychiatrist said: “With the evolution of the internet and smart phones, families can now often be found in the room together but not actually spending any real time bonding or sharing experiences. With modern families comprising of two full time working parents, it can be common to find both parents glued to their laptops or phones and despite wanting to spend more time with their children they are pulled in the direction of work via technology. Work does not end when you leave your office anymore. I fully support National Unplugging day for the health and wellbeing of families throughout the UK.”
Johnson adds: We are encouraging people to unplug and engage in life without a digital connection and be present for their children. I’m urging all individuals to check how much they are using technology and look at the impact it is having on those around you. I certainly didn’t realise how much time I was spending on my smart phone until my oldest son pointed it out, this is why this campaign is so important to me.” The National Day of Unplugging recognises the value and importance of technology in today’s society whilst trying to encourage people, especially families and young children and 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.
To set families up for success during the National Unplugging Day on Sunday 26 June MyFamilyClub is offering tips and advice to families who want to enjoy technology free family time. Individuals and families are invited to get involved with the campaign sharing what they plan to do when not using technology by uploading a photo to MyFamilyClub’s social media platforms using the following hashtag #GoGadgetFree #Unplug2016
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