UK health charity plans digital detox with ‘Scroll Free’ month

PTI London | Updated on July 27, 2018 Published on July 27, 2018

A leading public health charity in the UK has launched plans for a month-long digital detox drive with ‘Scroll Free September’

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is calling for all social media users, young and old, to take a break from all personal social media accounts throughout September — work use and instant messaging apps being exempt.

A good relationship is one of balance, and ‘Scroll Free September’ is here to help you gain that with social media both on and offline, the RSPH campaign message reads.

By going Scroll Free for a month, you’ll have a chance to reflect on your social media use — what you missed, what you didn’t, and what you got to do and enjoy instead, it adds.

The charity admits that going “cold turkey” on social media would be a huge challenge and therefore it is offering a range of detox options for the month of September.

The aim is that by the end of the month we will be able to reflect back on what we missed and what we got to enjoy instead of scrolling through our newsfeeds, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health.

Impact of social media on mental health

The charity highlights emerging evidence which has raised concerns about the potential impact of social media on mental health and wellbeing. In 2017, its ‘Status of Mind’ report found a range of potential negative effects of social media, including anxiety and depression, negative body image, cyberbullying, poor sleep and FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out’

By taking notice of and learning which elements of social media make you feel good and which make you feel bad, participating in Scroll Free September could help you build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future — a relationship where your use is conscious and mindful, and where you are the one in control, RSPH said.

The campaign, in the works since earlier this month, has found the backing of the UK’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS). Scroll Free September is right to highlight growing concerns that social media is contributing to increasing mental health issues in young people, and a major ramp up of services will be needed to deal with the problems as part of the NHS 10-year plan, said Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health, NHS England.

We need to see concerted action, with everyone taking responsibility, including social media giants, so that the NHS is not left to pick up the pieces of a mental health epidemic in the next generation, she said.

A survey for RSPH undertaken by Populus found that, in a representative sample of 2,057 adults, 65 per cent would consider taking part.

The charity has listed out various ways of getting involved — including ‘Cold Turkey’, or a complete social media blackout for 30 days; ‘Social Butterfly’, or a break at social events to interact with people directly; ‘Night Owl’, or a ban after 6 pm; ‘Busy Bee’, or a break from social media at school or work; and ‘Sleeping Dog’, or giving up social media in the bedroom for a better night’s sleep.

For many children, teenagers and young adults, social media can help develop positive relationships, but it’s clear it can also create an emotional strain, said Chris Elmore, chair of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing, a cross-party group of MPs and peers looking into the issue.

‘Scroll Free September’ follows similar monthly drives in Britain such as ‘Movember’ (to promote men’s health), ‘Stoptober’ (to encourage smokers to quit smoking) and ‘Dry January’ (to avoid alcohol after a heavy drinking holiday season).

Published on July 27, 2018

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