Is our obsession with digital devices killing the art of conversation?

With so many communication types now at our disposal, ‘talking’ by text or instant message is becoming increasingly favoured above conversation face-to-face.[i]    An abundance of digital communication forums and devices have made it possible to ‘talk’ to friends and family without having to be in the same room, house or even Country.  Whilst this of course has its advantages for global communication, it is in danger of impacting upon the ability to hold conversation in the real life, face-to-face world. 

This is something that has recently been flagged up by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), in tandem with the charity Family Action (NLT), who are reportedly issuing guidance to parents to remind them of the vital role they play in aiding their child’s communication skills[ii].   Headed as a ‘Ready to Learn’ campaign the guidance warns against the distraction technology can inadvertently become, away from the simplest family activities such as chatting together or the reading of a bedtime story, deemed vital to the development of a child’s listening and speaking skills.  With the National Literacy Trust also reporting that only a quarter of 35,000 children read outside of school, and that 1 in 5 children are embarrassed to be caught with a book[iii], it seems the stigma attached to traditional pastimes may be preventing children from participating in tech-free activities, such as reading, that are not only enjoyable but can aid their future development. 


The NAHT and the NLT are not standing alone in their concern about the impact of technology on family togetherness and children’s welfare.  This is a developing social issue whose presence is becoming increasingly more visible in everyday life.   

Foresters, the international financial services organisation, have launched the Tech Timeout challenge in recognition of the impact technology can have on a family’s day-to-day interaction with one another.  The Tech Timeout challenge hopes to encourage families to moderate their attachment to technology by asking them to pledge to take a scheduled break from their electronic devices, for an hour a day for a week, and to spend that time discovering new and fun ways to be together as a family. 

Parental engagement in children’s education has a significant impact on their interest and enthusiasm for learning, and outside of the classroom, it is great to fuel children’s intrigue through experiencing new things as a family and learning along the way.   The Tech Timeout challenge encourages adults and children alike to rediscover the enjoyment of non-tech activities and games.  The very act of choosing as a family how next to spend your ‘tech-free’ time can be a great way to get your children thinking creatively and communicate about what they enjoy doing the most.  Moreover, setting aside just an hour a day to escape from the sometimes stifling attachment we have to technology can be a simple and effective way to spend more, much needed time together. 

Visit to pledge to participate in the Tech Timeout challenge and begin enjoying the benefits of some time away from technology!

About the Author

Steve Dilworth is MD of the Member Network UK at Foresters, the international financial services (FS) organisation. He has extensive experience within the charity and FS sector, with a First Class Honours Degree in Economics and History and a Degree in FS. He is Chair of Soho Ltd, a subsidiary of Soho Housing Association, and Chairs Bromley Neighbourhood Police Panel. In 2007 he was elected as one of Manchester University’s Volunteers of the Year and in 2012 elected as a Community Champion for the London Borough of Bromley.




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