New studies are showing real cause for concern over the development and growth of our children in the digital world, the statistics below highlight the growing need for society as a whole to reclaim control over the slave / master relationship we have with our digital devices, getting the dynamic back into balance and teaching our children what this looks and feels like.
- Millions of children at risk of becoming short sighted or blind from lack of natural light
- The UK has seen a tenfold rise in extreme childhood obesity in school children
- In 2017-18, 18,700 children in the UK aged under 11 were referred for specialist mental health support
There’s no hiding from the facts that our children are becoming slaves to technology and struggling to find the right balance between on-line and off-line living in a hyper-connected world. Just recently my 11-year-old son tried his luck with a ‘Mummy can I have a phone so I can chat with my friends?’ my reply comprised of just two letters said with enough authority that he won’t be asking me again anytime soon. Only last week I was on BBC 3 Counties Radio commenting on children under the age of 11 years old being given smartphones and my position about protecting our children’s innocence remains steadfast.
With technology creep into households and schools it’s becoming even harder for our children to find time to unplug and unwind. With the constant barrage of TV, smartphones, consoles, tablets and computers, it’s no surprise that children are finding it hard to cope with the demands of modern day living and are frequently presenting concerning physical, emotional and mental symptoms that as parents may be so subtle to begin with that they aren’t getting picked up on until they develop in severity over time. The odd headache here and there, tight shoulders, back ache, blurry vision, poor sleep in isolation, can be marked down as a one-off symptom but over time these could signal a growing health problem.
According to research carried out by major retailer Decathlon, children are spending just one hour outside vs. two hours staring at a screen. I would like to say that has really shocked me but instead, my shoulders feel like shrugging in defeat as the battle to give our kids the freedom we experienced in childhood seems to be all but lost. Despite living in a country of outstanding beauty with stunning destinations just a short drive, train or a one-hour plane ride away unplugging should be relatively simple and frequent, yet adults and children alike struggle to switch off and take extended periods away from tech use (in some severe cases we are talking just a few hours at a time).
What if we flipped the term FOMO (fear of missing out) to mean ‘fear of missing out’ on time with our kids, of a healthy mind and a healthy body, of watching our children grow into well-rounded adults with excellent face-to-face communication skills, social skills and most importantly beautiful memories of their childhoods spent exploring nature and spending quality time with their parents. That’s something I fear missing out on, not what’s happening on social media or what cocktail my friend happens to be drinking.
It’s never to late to reclaim your time away from your devices and spend it in nature. It’s never to let to spend time with those you love, it’s about prioritising and exploring what gives you joy and then taking the plunge.
After five days in the Lake District with my friend and her two children, although some hilariously exhausting and hair-pulling moments playing referee between five children aged 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 years of age, the memories we’ve created will last a lifetime and giving our children space to truly unplug has been a beautiful and rewarding experience.
Booking a holiday in the forest is without a doubt one of life’s most natural and healing tonics, the health benefits according to research range from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, lowering the stress hormone cortisol and boosting moods. So why, when we know this is within our reach and is of huge benefit to ourselves and our children’s mental and physical well-being don’t we do this more often?
That is a question that I want to personally take time to reflect on and I hope it will provide you also, food for thought and possibly help you to find ways to unplug on a more regular basis. I don’t think anyone will ever regret spending more time offline, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.
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