In 1973, the BBC launched a new TV programme – Why Don’t You? (Or: Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?) It ran until 1995 and featured ideas for children as to what they could do (such as learn something, play a game, or have a day out); make something (usually crafts using paper and glue), or other fun activities (such as learning a magic trick to impress friends etc).
It was almost ground-breaking at the time – telling you to actually switch of the TV and amuse yourself in other ways – so now, with children of today having more technology than ever to keep them entertained, maybe it would be a good idea to bring it back?
From PCs to tablets; from films to online games and videos, as well as social media, all of us (and not just children!) have access to hours of entertainment, all from the click of a mouse or the swipe of a tablet screen.
There are concerns, however, that peoples’ reliance on technology is turning them in to so-called digital addicts – so dependent on technology, that it leads to behavioural symptoms similar to any addictive disorder.
There have been many studies in to the effects of constant use of gadgets and devices:
- 62% of children aged 3-5 are able to turn a computer off and on, and 47% are able to navigate a smartphone or tablet, according to research from AVG. What is concerning, however, is that only 23% of these children can swim unaided, 58% are able to ride a bike, and 38% can write both their first and last names;
- according to The Telegraph newspaper, a quarter of Britons spend longer online each day than they do asleep while almost three-quarters (73%) would struggle to get through the whole day without their phones or computers;
- texting is becoming the most popular method of communicating, with 84% of people communicating this way;
- 28% of UK children aged 2 to 15 are classed as obese which can not only be blamed to a poor diet, rich in sugars and fatty foods, but a lack of physical exercise. More and more children sit down and engage with technology after school, rather than playing outside with their friends;
- an independent study revealed that only 16% of children use technology associated with reading i.e. Kindles and other e-readers.
There are also concerns over the development of social skills, as addressed by this blog.
So, what can you do if you feel that you’re a digital addict, or that your child is one?
You can pledge to give up all technology, either as an individual or together as a family, for one hour every day for a week, and see how it makes you a feel and reconnect as a family. There is an excellent website, TechTimeout.com, where you can make your pledge, as well as pick up useful tips and ideas on what to do instead. Just some of the ideas listed by the site include making a pizza from scratch, playing with a pet, having a family picnic or volunteering.
Steve Dilworth from Foresters, the international financial services and membership organisation fronting the Tech Timeout campaign, comments:
“In this digital age, it is not surprising that we find ourselves interacting with technology as much as, or possibly more than, we interact with the people around us. With technological devices continually evolving to become as sophisticated, time-saving and entertaining as possible, it is all too easy to be lured into the trap of becoming reliant on technology to keep us occupied. Whilst there is no doubt that technology has brought a great many improvements to our lives, we have to be careful not to develop a digital addiction.”
There is no doubt that technology has its place in our modern world, but the potentially huge emotional and physical benefits of getting off your chair and doing something completely different instead cannot be underestimated.
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.