posted by Glenn Barton

My secret relationship

Monday night, I walked in from work to see two of my children lounged flat out on the sofa with their faces buried deep into their Kindle Fires, and legs stretched up towards the ceiling. The TV was on as well, but no-one was watching. 

My first reaction was to think what a waste of energy it was to have 3 screens flickering away in one room, when only 2 people were there. And despite saying "hello dad", they didn't lift their eyes up to see me. Depressing hey? But not an unusual scene in most households I would bet. 

Anyway, I turned off the TV, muttering some sort of indignant complaint under my breath. And then got to thinking about my own relationship with my screen(s). 

I, like most people, am always reaching for my phone to check things - inevitably getting drawn into WhatsApp conversations, or surfing news stories. I'm not the biggest social media user so that doesn't really impact my day too much - although the guilt of not being a heavy social media user does constantly plague my mind! And if it's not my phone screen, it's my lap top - when not working, I'm Googling, Spotifying, Netflixing, or Amazoning. 

Who am I then, to nag my children about having their heads buried in a screen when I am guilty of the same? The only difference is I'm able to use the excuse - "It's work" - even if it isn't!

In fact, the recent software upgrade on my phone now shouts loud and clear about my personal screen time usage. Apparently I look at my phone 60 times a day, which means on average I have to look at it every 15 minutes at least. 

In this day and age of easy-access media, we all know the consequences can be both beneficial and sadly so detrimental. Which is why four of the UK's chief medical officers are now recommending no phones at the dinner table or in bedrooms for children. A drive to reduce screen time and promote healthy living (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47150658

I make no apology for the position I'm about to take. I'm in a creative industry - an industry where our output tends to land behind a screen. But for me - screen time, whatever excuse we might use to justify it, stifles creativity and numbs the brain. 

There, I've said it - or rather admitted it.! The more time I spend looking at a screen, the less creative I become. My head drops, I stop looking out at the world, stop connecting with it. It's no wonder the best ideas arrive when you're out and about and the brain is being stimulated from all directions. Walking, running, socializing, conversing. All these things are real and take place in the real world. The brain has to engage in a 'three dimensional' way which it just doesn't when staring at a flat 2D image on a screen. 

So this is my belated New Year's resolution. From now on, I am going to spend less time on my phone and more time in the real world where the colours are brighter, the people are real, and the creative possibilities are boundless. And I'm going to get my kids to do the same. 

So whatever device you may have read this on, have a think. What would happen right now, if you just turned it off and looked up?

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