Children to spend the day offline

Neil Brown, of North Tyneside Council, and Sarah Wallace, of Cullercoats Primary School, with Year Six pupils.
Neil Brown, of North Tyneside Council, and Sarah Wallace, of Cullercoats Primary School, with Year Six pupils.

Schoolchildren will turn off their technology and go on a digital diet.

Children from at least 37 schools and childcare facilities across the borough will spend Thursday, December 7, offline for North Tyneside Unplugged.

The initiative is being led by North Tyneside Council to raise awareness of the downside of technology.

Pupils will turn off all devices at the start of the school day and will have themed lessons, taught without the use of projectors or whiteboards, that will investigate the role of technology in the lives of young people.

Families may continue the exercise at home by having device-free meal times.

Sarah Wallace, a Year 6 teacher from Cullercoats Primary School, said: “It’s become so normal for people to have a device in their hand at all times and being without a phone does seem to fill people with dread.

“But if we can lead by example and promote the responsible use of devices at this young age, we can bring some balance to the way they use technology and get some positive messages across.

“Switching off can help creativity and give the mind a rest. Young people need to see that the world won’t stop turning if they can’t get online for a few hours.”

Neil Brown, from North Tyneside Council’s School Improvement Service, said: “Technology is a wonderful thing that has enriched all our lives and changed the way we work, socialise and play – but you can have too much of a good thing.”

“The event challenges young people to experience a full day without once glancing at a screen and to think about the issues in depth.

“We know that many will be itching to get back on their phones the next day, but I think will find this an engaging and thought-provoking exercise that will help young people to rebalance their lives and reconnect offline.

Dr Martin Lee, a consultant rheumatologist at Freeman Hospital, has been examining the side effects of smartphone overuse.

His research has found links to sleep loss, poor concentration, mental and physical health issues, online safety dangers and problems with interpersonal relationships.

Dr Lee said: “Smartphones and social media have fundamentally changed how we live our lives, and their functionality has had many positive impacts.

“However, it’s important to have boundaries that prevent them having a negative impact within our homes and on our lives.”

A host of North Tyneside businesses will also be promoting the scheme, including event sponsors Olives at the Station, Pirate Escape Rooms and Gravity Force Trampoline park.

Schools, businesses and families who want to take part can find out more at teachictnt.org.uk/ntunplugged and follow the build up on social media using the hashtag #ntunplug.