Unplug to Plug In

Digital devices are a common aspect of life for most of us. While we’ve all become accustomed to the many perks and conveniences that technology provides, the increased connectivity can come with challenges, especially for tweens, teens, and young adults. From “fear of missing out” and mindless scrolling on social media to distractions and dangers, technology can take a toll on social-emotional well being, productivity, and relationships.

Recent surveys by Asurion, Lake Research Partners, and the Pew Research Center reveal –

  • Americans check their phones up to 96 times a day.
  • 54% of U.S. teens say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and two-thirds of parents express concern over their teen’s screen time.
  • When asked to reflect on their teen’s cell phone use, a majority of parents (72%) feel their teen is at least sometimes distracted by their cell phone when they are trying to have a conversation with them.
  • Sixty-eight percent of teenagers reported that they keep their mobile devices within reach at night, leading to inadequate sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.

The statistics are staggering, but with increased awareness and simple steps to develop positive habits, we can help tweens, teens, and young adults prepare for life in a digital world.

Unplug to Plug In is an initiative developed by a cohort from Leadership Shelby County to encourage healthy digital habits by increasing awareness of the negative aspects of excessive cell phone usage and promoting alternatives that will develop connections, conversations, and a sense of community.

Talking to our children about the importance of healthy digital habits and committing to a few simple changes in the use of digital devices can make a big difference for our kids.

Start with Three Simple Steps:  

    1. Change Where You Charge

Don’t allow children to go to sleep at night with a cell phone. If there’s a phone in the room, they are probably using it well into the night. Create a charging area in a place different from the bedroom

    1. Say No to Notifications

Constant dinging or buzzing is distracting any time of day, but especially in school or when sleeping. Use cell phone or app settings to turn off all notifications. Set specific times to check apps, email, etc.

    1. Smart Security

Turn off location services/disable location tagging on apps and photos. Keep social media and app accounts private so that only people you know can see your posts, photos, and other activities.

Unplug from Devices and Connect In Real Life

Encourage conversations and activities that allow kids to interact with each other in person. Socializing online means missing out on facial expressions, body language, and learning how to interact in real time. Learning social cues, communication skills, and navigating personal interactions are essential to developing confidence and positive self-esteem.

Parents can set a good example by also limiting the amount of time spent plugged into digital devices and prioritizing conversations and activities that strengthen the family bond. By taking the time to talk to your kids about their day, letting them know you’re there to help solve problems, setting expectations, and giving them your full attention, you will help build their trust and self-confidence.

Plug In to Community

Taking a break from the digital world is something we all need to do every once in a while. Add an Unplugged day to the family calendar (try once a week or even once a month) and Plug In to family and community connections without the distraction of devices.

Engage your kids in conversations about activities they would enjoy. Visit DiscoverShelby.com and follow @discovershelby on Instagram to explore the amazing things to do and places to go in Shelby County. Even consider adding some volunteer opportunities to your list. There are lots of organizations in our area that welcome the assistance of volunteers to meet the needs of our community.

While it may be easier said than done, start with these small changes. Once you commit to creating healthy digital habits, occasionally unplugging from the screens, and plugging in to conversations, connections, and community, you’ll see the benefits and find the assurance you need to achieve balance in the digital world.

Important Guidance for Parents & Kids

Check out our Unplug to Plug In Resources for downloads that will help make unplugging a priority. You’ll find wallpaper for your mobile device, a Simple Steps share card, and more. Then, click the links below for important tips and valuable guidance to help create healthy digital habits for your family.

Parents Guide to SmartPhone Safety

How Do You Use Your Netsmartz?

Social Media Safety for Teens

Protecting Your Kids Online 2.0

Gaming Safely

Think Before You Send

Talking to Teens About Sexting

NetSmartz Tips for Tweens