Pledge to plug out on Saturday night and detox.

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Saturday Night Plug-Out is an initiative to battle digital addiction across the world. Conceptualised by north Bangalore resident Tejaswi Uthappa, the campaign #timeoutfromplugins has already become a common cause from Bengaluru to Dubai and from Gurgaon to San Francisco and in many households across the country.

From concerned parents to teachers, and from counsellors to psychiatrists, everyone agrees that children and adults alike need to take time out from gadgets including the mobile phone by your side.

The Facebook page timeoutfromplugins is a campaign page where people of all ages and from all walks of life take a pledge. “Every Saturday, we intend to take time out from all kinds of plugins. Today is the first day of the once-a-week pledge. The members of this currently closed-user-group are urged to plug-out and also post on the group and elsewhere what they did between 7 pm to 9 pm, so as to motivate more people to join this awareness campaign, says Uthappa.

The campaign was kicked off on World Mental Health Day, October 10, as the World Health Organisation a couple of weeks earlier declared gaming disorder as a mental illness.

There were also news reports that the NIMHANS clinic for treating mental disorders last week treated a patient for watching Netflix for seven hours a day – unfortunately it had become the day’s activity for this young employable youth.

Dr Suresh VC, a neuro-psychiatrist who studied at NIMHANS and chose to practice among the rural community in Doddaballapur near Bengaluru lauded the campaign. “Digital addiction is a huge problem and an emerging area of distress. It is not only among youth in urban areas, it is filtering down to rural areas too,” he says.

Interestingly, Dr Suresh has done a study among his own medical students and found severe cell phone addiction among first year MBBS students. “This is a huge problem across the world and glad that WHO identified gaming as a mental disorder as a first step towards such new vicarious addictions,” he adds.

Some schools have also caught onto it and are keen their students spend quality time outdoors rather than being hooked to gadgets and the idiot box indoors. There is also a sense of confusion among educational institutions.

As a school principal put it: “If we do not have smart class rooms and online learning, parents will think the school is not upto the mark. At the same time, they are not being firm on their wards when it comes to limiting gadget time.”

Delhi Public School, Bangalore North, highlighted digital addiction and educated their school children at their recent DPS Habba. Many students also posted pledges online.

Already, parents and others are posting what they did during their time-out from plug-ins on October 10. “We were all together and avoided the phone or impulse to watch TV,” said Dr Annapurna Kamath, an educator and mother of two.

There are other responses in this growing group from “we spent quality time” to “ we went out for a walk” and “my young children played in a park for two hours”. While some were simply not able to express their thanks to the campaign for highlighting it, there are millions of parents and students who are slowly understanding why digital detox is important and the kind of debilitating effect it can have.

Join Saturday Night Plug-Out today and every Saturday henceforth and Plug into Life! Join, Like and post a comment on https://www.facebook.com/groups/708436139509958/ and Instagram page timeoutfromplugins.

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