Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

EMF Studies

04 January 2017

'Digital Detox' Aims to Help Teenagers Reconnect Offline

A third of teenagers in a survey admitted to spending 
eight hours a day online.
Photo:  imagebroker/Rex/Shutterstock
[A sad commentary on today's society that the parents of young people have to pay for their children to be retaught how to live in a real, off-line, world.]

‘Digital detox’ aims to help teenagers reconnect offline
by Rob Walker, The Guardian, 
1st January 2017

Pupils who struggle to stay away from their mobiles and laptops can take part in a pioneering camp

One of Britain’s first “digital detox” companies is planning to expand its programmes to include teenagers as concern grows at the number of young people apparently unable to withdraw from the online world.

The website of Time To Log Off offers punters the chance “to reconnect with the world offline, leaving you relaxed and energised to return to your daily life”. So far it has specialised in detox breaks for adults, but its first teenage weekend will open in Somerset during the Easter holidays.

Founder Tanya Goodin has toured secondary schools to talk to children about managing their online time in a healthier way. “More and more have been coming up to me and asking ‘How do I know if I’m addicted?’” she said, “and ‘How much time is too much time online?’ A bit of logging off and mindfulness before they launch into the summer exam season ought to be a good experience.”

Goodin carried out a survey of more than 500 young people aged 13 to 18. Of those, 29% said they spent more than eight hours a day online while 36% admitted they regularly fell asleep with their phone or laptop in bed. Two-thirds (67%) said they went to their phone when they were bored and nearly 60% revealed they used their phone as a crutch in an uncomfortable social situation.

Eliza, 16, a year 11 pupil in Hampshire, is one of those keen to sign up. She is currently revising for her mock GCSEs, but is struggling to get anything done. The problem, she says, is that she cannot stay off her phone for more than 20 minutes. “I’m constantly checking it and flicking through stuff. I wish I could bring myself to delete all my apps, or just turn the phone off, but I can’t. It’s quite scary,” she says.

“Once you get into the habit you’re always waiting – there’s always a set amount of ‘likes’ you’re trying to get. There’s always certain standards you have to meet. There’s a lot of pressure in that sense.”

Getting children off screens is already big business in China. Places like Beijing’s Daxing Internet Addiction Treatment Centre, founded by a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army, are run more like military boot camps than retreats. The children are woken at 5am and there is a focus on discipline, obedience and silence (sometimes even solitary confinement).

“The kids get dragged there kicking and screaming”, says Goodin, who says her camps will take a softer approach. Activities will focus on team building, silent walks and creative pastimes like photography, painting and cookery. As with her adult retreats, the teenagers will be required to leave all their devices at the door.

“I imagine it will be quite bad tempered and snarly to start with,” she says. “The first 24 hours are the most difficult but then I expect them to adapt very quickly.”

At £500 for a three-night stay, it will not be accessible to all. “It’s only going to happen for children with parents who are switched on enough to care, or able enough to afford it,” says Shelagh O’Connell, head of English at a prominent west London school. O’Connell, who has been teaching English for 20 years, has seen a major dip in the attention span of her pupils over the past five years and believes much of it is down to a rampant social media culture.

“The children have to be plugged into their social feed all the time, so they’re caught in a bubble,” she says. Pupils are less able to memorise poetry verses, take dictated notes in class or even make simple observations, like describing the colours of autumnal leaves.

“Teaching has become focused on keeping kids’ attention and always having visuals in front of them,” she says.

O’Connell agrees with Goodin that children are more clued up about technology dependency than many adults give them credit for. One of her pupils was so concerned about failing a series of crucial exams that he gave her his mobile phone for safe keeping between Easter and study leave, she says.

“He was coming in well slept and polite, and he didn’t ask for it back,” adds O’Connell. “He passed the exams and his mother was really grateful to me because she hadn’t had to battle him at home.”

So should schools be looking at their own digital detox initiatives, especially around exam times?

Dr Richard Graham, a consultant psychiatrist at the Nightingale hospital in London, thinks so. Digital detox retreats in Somerset will be good for “washing out the toxins,” he says. But schools need a “system-wide approach, with clean times and clean zones where everyone switches off”.

With exams looming, Eliza, for one, would welcome something that forces her to resist her social media impulses. “It all started off as a place to make new friends, but it’s turned into something that’s more about seeking validation,” she says. “I don’t know why I put myself through it.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/01/digital-detox-teenagers-pioneering-camp

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