Villagers practise 'digital detox' to curb screen addiction

A village in Maharashtra recently started an innovative "digital detox" experiment, which became a success and is now adopted by five other villages in the district.

According to Indian media reports, around 3,000 people living in Mohityanche Vadgaon in Sangli district, mostly farmers and sugar mill workers, switch off their handphone and television at 7pm every day for 90 minutes.

A siren wails from the village temple at 7pm to remind residents to switch off their handphone and TV. A second siren goes off at 8.30pm to signal the end of the digital detox.

After initial resistance, the new system got accepted and worked well, village officials told Indian daily Mint.

A committee monitors the implementation of the project in the village and volunteers visit the homes to create awareness.

The idea was mooted by head of the village council, Mr Vijay Mohite, when he noticed there were no casual gatherings in the village after 7pm.

"People go into their homes, shut the door and stare at the phone or TV. We decided this was not good for social cohesion," he said, adding that children spent more time on their phone during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

"When physical classes resumed, teachers realised children had become lazy, did not want to read and write, and were mostly engrossed in their phones outside of school hours.

"There weren't separate study rooms in the homes of the villagers. So I put forth the idea of a digital detox.

"I proposed a 90-minute period. There was an initial hesitance as people wondered if it was possible to keep away from handphone and TV screens.

"On India's Independence Day (Aug 15), we held a gram sabha (meeting) of women and decided to purchase a siren.

"Then social workers, gram panchayat employees and retired teachers went home to home to create awareness about the digital detox."

Mr Mohite proposed the idea to Mr Jitender Dudi, who oversees the district's development.

"Children weren't doing their homework. They were watching videos on their phone and not really focusing," Mr Dudi told Mint.

"Teachers complained that during the pandemic and school closures, children had not only fallen behind in studies but also got used to spending much more time on their phone."

Now the residents have widely accepted the digital detox system and are participating in this novel exercise enthusiastically.

A villager told BBC Hindi: "Now, from 7pm to 8.30pm, children study while parents read and write. There is no disturbance as everyone undertakes such productive activities."

Ms Vandana Mohite (not related to Mr Mohite) said she was finding it difficult to supervise her two children "because they would be completely focused on playing with the phone or watching TV".

"Since this new norm, it is far easier for my husband to help them study after he gets home from work and I can peacefully do my work in the kitchen," she said.

Earlier this month, the Jain community in Raisen in Madhya Pradesh observed a "digital fast" for 24 hours.

Indo-Asian News Service

"People go into their homes, shut the door and stare at the phone or TV. We decided this was not good for social cohesion."

- Mr Vijay Mohite

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