Advances in technology have helped to reimagine much of the way we work, play, learn and socialise, and have had a profound effect on the way we communicate to and connect with those around us.
Most developments in technology are advantageous, but there is increasing concern that the amount of time we dedicate to digital devices is having a detrimental effect on our well-being.
With the term digital addict now a recognised phrase to describe someone whose interaction with technology is verging on excessive, and many reports and studies suggesting that overuse of and reliance on technology can affect your health and well-being, many people are taking time out and doing a digital detox.
What is a digital detox?
This is where you (and your family if you are concerned about their addiction to gadgets etc.) give up technology for a period of time. It could be for one hour every night for a week; a weekend; or during a family holiday.
The idea is that you learn to reconnect with each other and do other activities, such as going for a walk; cooking a meal together; or even just talking.
There are even retreats where you can enjoy a digital detox – there is one interesting account described here in the US publication Business Week. Aimed at stressed out professionals, this retreat consists of yoga, swimming in a creek and absolutely no technology.
Of course, you don’t have to get away from it all to take a real digital detox – you can organise your own. Below are some tips on how to achieve this. Some of these only require an hour of your time, some more. You can choose the activity that best suits how long you want to detox for:
- sign up to Tech Timeout.com – this is a challenge started by ForestersTM (– the international financial services and membership organisation) encouraging families to take a one hour daily break from technology every day for a week. Participants are encouraged to disconnect from all things electronic with the goal of helping partners, parents and children build stronger bonds, communicate more personally and get more involved in each other’s lives. The site has lots of ideas as to other things you can be doing instead, so is well worth taking a look at;
- plan your activities ahead of time to build up the excitement– so, for example, if you are taking the children out for a picnic, get them involved beforehand in getting sandwiches made as well as sourcing items such as Frisbees. do some volunteering work, whether that be a one off project such as painting a local school classroom, or visiting a retirement home or helping out regularly at an animal rescue centre;
- learn a new skill that you and your children can share – such as making jewellery from beads or painting;
- get your children to write and put on a play – this will allow their creative juices to flow with ideas as well as costume and prop making (this need not be expensive, search on website such as www.youtube.com for tutorials on making cheap costumes etc.);
- prepare and cook an evening meal together and make sure you all turn off your phones and other devices when at the dinner table;
- write a letter to an old friend and encourage your children to do the same. A letter on nice stationery means so much more than a hurried text or distracted phone call;
- go to the library and borrow some books.
At the end of your detox, whether it for an hour every day for a week, or for a weekend, see how you and your family feel. Are you more relaxed? Closer? Remember the benefits of the detox and make a note in your diary to make a habit of it.
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.