I was invited to the launch of a really interesting idea this week, the Digital Sunset Challenge. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the launch but I want to show you why I firmly support the idea. It could well be something you’d like to do for yourselves, in your families or school – and it works better if you do it with all your school friends. In fact, that’s kind of the point, though there’s nothing to stop you doing it on your own.
Digital Sunset is the idea of two women in Kent. Anna Firth and Linden Kemkaran spent a couple of years working towards this and I think the effort they’ve put in is tremendous. They’ve got the backing of loads of schools in SE England and have put together a film (below) and this Digital Sunset Booklet so that you can take part. The idea is that for a week, you and your friends (and families, if possible) pledge that every evening at 7pm or a time you’ve all agreed, everyone will switch off their devices and do something else. (There are lots of ideas of fun things to do that don’t involve your Internet-connected devices.) And you don’t switch them on again until 7am.
An important part of this is to notice how we feel: did it get easier? Did it help to know that our friends weren’t online, too? Did we get some other things done? Did we sleep better? Did we feel more relaxed? Was it great to switch off any arguments and just think about other things?
The Teenage Guide to Life Online, which is published soon, includes a mention of this idea. My clear message is this: our devices and the online world we connect to bring us vast benefits, pleasures, knowledge, opportunities, for all of us, at all ages. But it’s easy to spend an unhealthy amount of time on our devices. We do not know exactly how long is “unhealthy” – and we never will have the answer to that because it will depend on factors such as what we’re doing while on our screens – but if we are on them for a long time we inevitably spend less time doing other things that we know are important: physical exercise and fresh air, face to face communication, daydreaming, our work or schoolwork, hobbies, looking after ourselves and sleep! If you’re getting plenty of those things, there’s no problem.
These are the likely benefits of a Digital Sunset:
- Better sleep – we know our screens keep us awake and alert, making our brains think it’s daytime
- More relaxed before bedtime
- Avoiding arguments that can wait till tomorrow – and might have faded by then
- Time to think about what we have to do the next day and get organised
- Spending quality time with family
- Spending quality time with ourself, thinking , planning, dreaming
- More time for reading for pleasure
- Peace and quiet – no one hassling us
Watch this great film below for the ideas and experiences of some young people:
The facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/DigitalSunsetChallenge/
And it’s @digitalsunset7 on Twitter
And don’t just do it for a week! Make it a habit.