Switch it Off by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees

09 Nov 2015 Posted by: Guest blogger

As an author I wear many hats – one of my favourite being my role as an Ambassador for Kallikids so I was delighted when they suggested that I write about ‘Switch It Off’, my new book with my writing partner and husband, Emlyn Rees.

Switch It Off is a smartphone made entirely of paper and the idea behind it is simple – to get people to switch off their technology and get talking and laughing face to face.

We were inspired to write this book, when were in Mallorca on holiday last year. We were in the most beautiful restaurant on the beach. It was a perfect day. The view was amazing. There were four families – all old friends - and we looked down the table and everyone was on their phones, or tablets. Some with headphones, but all of them totally disengaged from the scene around them – and each other.

We had a light-bulb moment and set about gathering all our best ideas for what to do INSTEAD of looking at our technology all the time. Like learning to surf, making chilli oil and perfume, playing mob. Great stuff to do inside and out, no matter what the time of year. And funny stuff too – like tongue twisters, puzzles and how to make a paper movie.

But whilst ‘Switch It Off’ is a fun activity book for every age, there’s a serious intent behind it. Because when we started to research the book, we found out some alarming statistics.

Like the fact that most people reach for their phones by 7.30 in the morning and check Facebook, emails and messages before they’ve even got out of bed. The average user picks up their phone over 1,500 times a week and uses their phone for over three and a quarter hours a day. Four out of ten people admitted feeling lost without their phone. Most phone users worry about running out of battery.

What fascinated me was why we’re all so suddenly addicted. After a bit of research, I found out that it’s all to do with dopamine loops.

Dopamine is a chemical released in your brain and is most commonly associated with pleasure. But dopamine is to do with seeking out pleasure.

The message or a tweet gives instant gratification to this desire to seek. Dopamine makes you seek, then you get rewarded for seeking, which makes you want to seek more. And now you’re in a dopamine loop.

The more you seek, the more you want and dopamine is particularly sensitive to triggers. Which is why when our phones pings with an alert, we find it almost impossible to ignore it.

The problem with the dopamine system is there’s no off. The more you seek, the more you want. Which is why you click on online links, even though you’ve found the information you were looking for.

This constant loop of wanting information and not being quite satisfied enough with text or tweet is exhausting. It makes it impossible to concentrate or get anything done.

More worrying is what our addiction to technology is doing to our kids. We recently did and experiment where the whole family ‘switched off’ for a week, including our 15, 11 and 8 year old girls. It was hard at first, but we all noticed profound changes.

For a start, there was loads more time. We hung around in the kitchen chatting, we went for walks, we all read more. I was far more focused at work and Tallulah reported that she got her homework done in half the time, without constantly being distracted by her phone.

It’s made me realise that I need much stricter boundaries for myself about how I use my phone. I really don’t need to be available 24/7 or urgently need to answer other people’s texts or messages. In the future I aim to be much more ‘present’ when I’m with my kids and my hope is that ‘Switch It Off’ will inspire others to feel the same.

We've got 10 Copies of Switch it Off to give away.

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KalliKids Ambassador for Literacy Joanna Rees is a best selling author from Brighton. She also writes as Josie Lloyd with her husband. Switch It Off – by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees is published by Little, Brown priced £8.99. For further fun ideas for an offline life, visit www.swoffler.com

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