If the idea of keeping your kids off Snapchat for more than an hour seems like an impossible task, then how about asking them to ditch all social media for an entire month?
For many parents this could be enough to incite household mutiny, but with two in five (40%) of young users saying doing so would improve their confidence, and two thirds (66%) saying it would improve their productivity levels, it might be worth the battle.
In the same way Dry January helps people undo the vices of the Christmas period and Stoptober asks smokers to put out cigarettes for good, now Scroll Free September wants the first month back at school to be social media free.
“Many of us are guilty of becoming consumed by social media and whilst there are many benefits to using the various platforms which are available, it’s important to take time out,” MP Chris Elmore, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, said.
Set up by The Royal Society for Public Health, the campaign urges everyone (regardless of age) to stop using, or at least reduce the amount of time we spend scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest.
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH, said: “Scroll Free September offers us all the opportunity to take back control of our relationship with social media, whether you choose to go cold turkey, or just abstain at social events or in the evening.”
It follows the publication of the charity’s Status Of Mind report in 2017, which found although social media has a range of both positive and negative effects on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, the net effect of the majority of major platforms is currently negative.
The impacts included heightened feelings of anxiety and depression, poor sleep, body images issues and fear of missing out (FOMO).
Half of young users say they think giving up social media for a month would have a positive effect on their sleep, real world relationships and overall mental health and wellbeing.
“It’s quite concerning to see just how much people are using social media at night time.” said Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight’s sleep expert. “The impact on sleep is particularly concerning. It’s proven that the blue light from phones and tablets wakes up the brain making it difficult to wind down and fall asleep. So punctuating the night with social media checks is a recipe for disaster if you want to sleep well.”
Although the negative effects on sleep and relationships are evident, 50% of young users said that going cold turkey would be “hard” or “impossible” - so it’s not going to be easy.
And if you’re already feeling like you couldn’t do it yourself, you might feel more inspired by the fact they have excluded any work-based social activity and the use of instant messaging apps like Whatsapp, from the campaign.
“Of course, we know this will be a challenge because of the addictive nature of social media technology,” says Cramer. “The aim is that by the end of the month, we will be able to reflect back on what we missed, what we didn’t, and what we got to enjoy instead of scrolling through our newsfeeds.
“That knowledge could help us build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future.”
Still not sure the campaign is for you? Take the RSPH quiz to find out if you could benefit from taking part.