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How Having Kids Inspired Me to Set Up the Largest Digital Detox Movement In The UK

15/04/2016 11:03 | Updated 15 April 2016

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Digiphrenia - the fragmentation of identity produced by the use of digital services". In layman's terms, throw together the words digital (as in tech) and schizophrenia and there you have it!

A term coined by Mr. Rushkoff in his book 'present shock' and as Mr. Rushkoff describes it "that we have created a world where we try to exist in more than one sphere, simultaneously and in parallel. In this digitally provoked mental condition, we live with myriad distractions that take our focus away from the immediacy of who we are with, and the purpose of that encounter".

I was firmly on that downward spiral into present shock and as much as I tried grappling and clawing my way back up, my brain was getting far too much stimulation in its pleasure centres and the dopamine released due to my digital usage meant that I continued to spiral. Then one day, bang! I just woke up and felt completely disconnected from the real world.

Totally overwhelmed by maintaining the myriad of digital Gemma's floating scattered across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram etc meant that the physical me operating in the real world couldn't function properly. The interrupted sleep from my mobile coupled with interrupted sleep from my children, tension headaches, poor posture and fatigue finally got the better of me.

As a Mother of three young children, being present is one of the most important parts of parenthood, you really don't have the luxury of being anywhere else in your head when dealing with young kids as things can change in a heartbeatl. Parenthood is all about being in the moment, it's about being in the NOW and being present. We are robbing ourselves of our ability to enjoy life's intricate experiences when immersed in our digital worlds.

Juggling a career
with a 1.5 - 2 hour commute each way, caring for three children and the demands to stay switched on and ever ready meant I was teetering on the edge of digital burnout and slowly but surely my body was sending me some troubling signs and they got to a point where I could no longer ignore them. I knew deep down that my lifestyle wasn't sustainable either from a health or relationship perspective but I pushed it to one side as it's so easy when you are in your digital bubble. The time had finally come and I had to make some big changes.

Without a doubt, my kids deserved better and no amount of justification for my digital increasing digital usage was going to cut it. My kids deserved to have me focussed on their adventures and achievements, not having a parent who was separated from them by a screen.

With determination and a new-found awareness of my digital usage, the start of what is now called "National Unplugging Day" was born. Easter weekend 2014 we launched what we thought was a small campaign called 'Disconnect To Reconnect' and I knew that once I had announced it publicly and built a campaign to encourage other parents to pledge to #GoGadgetFree, I would be forced to make the necessary changes for the benefit of my family with the added up spin of health benefits for myself. Little did we know back then just how large it would grow.

The most amazing thing about being aware of your digital usage and understanding your boundaries is that it doesn't matter if you slip off the wagon! There are always going to be times when your usage increases but the key to be aware and adjust your usage where necessary.

With such a positive response from the campaign and the incredible feeling of tech liberation, I knew I had struck gold. In May 2015, National Unplugging Day UK was born and in just 4 weeks I had registered the day, come up with the campaign and generated media coverage of over 30 million people across TV, Radio and national press. There's no question that we captured the nation's hearts. Most heart-warming of all, my kids couldn't wait for another day of doing everything and anything they could with me off-line.

We are now working on National Unplugging Day 2016 on June 26th which also has Awards for children and parents to enter. My kids are ridiculously excited and I've promised them we'll hula hoop in the park and we've also organised a meal for 40 people comprising of families at a local restaurant which is going to be filled with board games and off-line activities. We've also partnered with Hope For Children on their Childhood Matters campaign to organise the UK's biggest playdate happening on the same day. 1000 fundraiser playdate packs will be available to order for free. Let's get this party started!

My children's happiness and their need to communicate with me face-to-face rather than to my forehead inspired me to set up the UK's largest digital detox movement and I am extremely proud of this achievement. I hope that it will continue to grow, encourage and support families across the UK on taking the plunge and regaining an on-line and off-line balance for the benefit of them all and protecting their traditional family values.

I've just celebrated another birthday and am watching my children grow and develop before my eyes. Never has there been a better time to switch the relationship you have with your gadgets to one whereby you are the Master and your gadgets are the Slaves!

Join us this year on June 26th and pledge to #GoGadgetFree from sun-up to sun-down and spend the day with your children and families getting back to some good old fashioned fun.

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