The Benefits Of A Digital Detox For your Brain

The 21st century is the age of the digital – online shopping, 4D films, navigations systems, social media stalking – all of it has become part of our day to day lives. In fact, we now spend more time each day using devices of some kind than we do asleep, with an average of 8 hours and 21 minutes online. This growing reliance on technology has put us on the fast-track to becoming mindless robots, incapable of functioning without our gadgets. And it’s not just adults. 92% of teenagers will go online every single day, many during school hours or spending hours surfing online in the evening. But how is this new addiction to technology affecting our children and their ability to learn?

Connection or Disconnection?

Ironically, the more ‘connected’ the world becomes, the more disconnected we become from it, and each other. We are losing that vital link to our family, environment, work, learning, ourselves and the moment to moment experience that carries the richness and learning of life. This disconnection is most obvious when we look at the younger generations – those just going through school. There are few children now without access to a smart device of some kind, and it is causing some interesting changes. Many children have reported struggling to keep up with multiple conversations online, feeling that they weren’t actually connecting as people and their friendships didn’t seem as real. 83% of teenagers have admitted to playing games on their phones while people are in the same room – or even having a conversation – with them. Despite having more ways to connect with people, the connections we are making are thin, fragile and few and far between. In fact, technology is fast distancing us from the people we actually care about, because we are putting the phones first.

Technology Addiction And Learning

The interesting thing here is that recent studies have shown that this increasing addiction to screens and technology is having a powerful impact on the way out children learn – and not in a positive way. In fact, studies carried out at various schools has indicated that more than 60% of 11 to 18 year olds stated they were addicted to the internet or their mobile phone. The study then goes on to state that 33.3% said that texting has damaged the quality of their written English, particularly in terms of spelling. In terms of the intellectual quality of work, 52.9% of teens admitted to inserting information straight from the internet into their school work, without needing to change or even absorb the information at all. What is even more shocking is that almost a third of those students (28.5%) said they deemed this as ‘acceptable practice’ for school work, even though they also recognised it as plagiarism. This is a quite frightening statistic, and showcases just how focussed on retention of facts (instead of creative and unique thought) our education system has become.

There are, of course, many more studies on the link between technology and learning, and most of them have come to the same conclusion – technology obsession hinders spelling skills, implicitly encourages plagiarism and disrupts classroom learning as a whole. In fact, there are now many schools calling for the ban of mobile phones (or at least 3G and 4G data packages) from schools altogether in order to keep students focussed. Those that have managed to ban smartphones from their schools have seen a huge spike in academic performance, supporting the idea that mobile phones and education don’t mix.

And while the development of new technology has its benefits, it’s important to remember that children still need to learn how to learn without using the computer in their hand. Technology should be used to enhance our own brain power and productivity, but there is growing concern that we, as a society, are now over-using it.

Why Take A Digital Detox?

The idea of a digital detox is quite appealing to adults as a way of switching off, but it might be even more important to our children. With their lives so tied up in their tech, many teenagers are suffering from a very real and legitimate addiction to technology, that is every bit as real as a drug or alcohol addiction. Digital detoxes can help break the spell of the screen, lessen the dependence on electronics and teach children that they can live without constant stimulation. It’s been proven that taking a break from technology can have a huge number of benefits for children, including:
  • Improving sleep length and quality
  • Reduced depression and anxiety
  • Strengthened relationships
  • Ability to build new relationships
  • Increase productivity
  • Increase in physical activity
  • Promotes healthy eating habits
  • Improves posture (and helps avoid ‘text neck’)
You might think that a digital detox sounds hard to impose, particularly if you are the parent of a child who is addicted to their technology. But actually, when approached properly, many teenagers and younger children are willingly participating in these sorts of schemes. In fact, students in some schools (like this one) actually find the idea of taking their friendships offline quite appealing. It’s all about how you frame it. Sometimes it will be a struggle, but as parents it is our job to do what’s best for our children, even if they don’t always agree. If you would like to know more about the benefits of a digital detox, or how to get started with one in your house, just get in touch with me today.

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