Scroll Free September?

Each half term when I write my new Online Safety update in the magazine #DITTO (see bottom of page), I always write an opinion piece; this one is from the September 2018 edition.

When I first started seeing the hashtag for Scroll Free September I did what I usually do, my eyes went up in the eye sockets, a yawn and a shake of the head. Perhaps it’s an age thing, I’m definitely staring to become a glass-half-empty type of person as I get older!

What is #scrollfreeseptember?

It’s an idea from the Royal Society for Public Health here in the UK, quote – a unique opportunity to take a break from all personal social media accounts for 30 days during September – unquote.

I’m not a fan when it comes to this type of thing, it’s making an assumption that we’re all the same, that everything is black and white, that we all use social media (or technology in general) in the same way, and that we’re all at risk of harm, specifically mental health issues through overuse of social media.

But we come back to that age old argument , what is overuse? If something has taken over your life, if it is having a negative effect on your social life, your profession, your education or any other everyday common activity then fair enough. But the first thought that came to my mind was, “What about those that have a genuine reliance?” For example those with poor mental health who rely on social media for support and guidance, those who are physically isolated, and so many others.

Almost daily we see a new report or media headline saying how teenagers in particular are so anti-social now compared to when we were younger. Is that really true? If teenagers are continually connected to and talking with their friends via their devices, doesn’t that make them more social than we were? Just because they’re doing it differently, does that make it wrong?

Think back to when you were a teenager; if you had access to all this amazing technology and always-on connectivity to your friends would you use it in the same way that teenagers do now? Some will agree, some won’t, nothing is ever black and white, and that’s what concerned me about this new initiative. It probably sounds as though I’m advocating that there’s nothing wrong with a reliance on technology as opposed to real-world, physical activities. I’m not, balance is everything, and I’m fully aware that for a minority, the balance is in the wrong direction.

After my initial internal rant I had a closer look at the #scrollfreeseptember campaign, and I’m happy to report that I’m eating my words, because it’s not bad at all. It’s worth noting that I recognise my own behaviours: I’m a terrible procrastinator and turn to social media more often than I should; I check various accounts first thing in the morning and throughout the day, I do it when I’m out socialising and much more. I know that I could get more done and I know that I waste a lot of time.

Rather than a one-size-fits all, there are 5 plans in #scrollfreeseptember.

  • COLD TURKEY – Give up all personal social media accounts for 30 days.
  • SOCIAL BUTTERFLY – Take a break from social media at all social events.
  • NIGHT OWL – Take a break from social media every evening after 6PM.
  • BUSY BEE – take a break from personal social media accounts when in school or work.
  • SLEEPING DOG – Give up social media in the bedroom and improve your sleep.

I quite like this, it takes into account a number of different situations and scenarios and I think could be a good idea for us all (adults and children) to give a bit of thought to, and not just for September. It could also be a great discussion point with students, not just social media but regarding screentime, gaming and much more.

For November I will be a sleeping dog. What will you be?

You can find out much more about #scrollfreeseptember  from RSPH HERE.

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