Why switching off is a smart move

Whether Great Britain and France will continue to be together in the EU for much longer remains to be seen, but at least the two countries appear to agree on one thing – we all need to switch off.

In a week in which President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party prepared to give employees a "right to disconnect” from work emails, new UK research said a third of children starting primary school can’t hold a conversation because their parents spend more time on their smart phone than they do talking to their kids.

In France, companies of more than 50 employees will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out evening and weekend hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails.

It’s in response to studies showing that intervention is needed because of the growing threat of permanent internet connection creating more, and constant, work-related stress.

In Britain, senior primary school teachers say that, because of limited parent/child interaction, four year-olds know how to swipe a phone, but have no clue about conversations.

The result is that many kids starting school lack social skills and have speech problems, and are not even toilet trained.

This all puts a big onus on schools to find the time and resources to do for children what has traditionally been the responsibility of parents during the formative years.

Whether the kids can learn basic social skills from their teacher as well as they could from mum and dad is questionable, and this generation of schoolchildren may never catch up after losing so much early ground.

Ultimately, this will create problems for employers who are already finding that job candidates often lack basic communication skills as a result of the digital, smart phone age.

The problems created have become habitual, and bad habits developed over the years are incredibly hard to break.

Even if you’re told that, by law, you no longer need to check work emails at night or weekend, will you be able to switch off? 

Similarly, what will it take to get parents to leave their smart phones alone for a few hours and start engaging with their children in a meaningful way, like their parents and grandparents used to do?

At present no-one has an answer, least of all PR professionals who are as addicted to smart phones and email as anyone. Ditto clients. We’re all in this together.