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Week four findings from the National Smart Meter Challenge: discovering the digital detox

We discovered that:

  • Larger families saw the most benefit from detoxing: Families with children tended to have the most devices, and therefore saw the greatest change in their behaviours during the detox. They also found that the quality of their interactions and the time they spent together improved.
  • People weren’t aware of how much they had switched on: The challenge made people aware of how many devices they have on all the time (e.g. tv, radio, laptop) even when they’re not using them. Lots of families said they would now be more careful about not having devices on unnecessarily to reduce their energy use.
  • Reliance on the mobile phone: Lots of families put their phones in a drawer or a totally different room and realised how often they default to playing on their mobiles.
  • Weekdays proved to be a greater challenge: On week nights households depend on easy and inactive forms of entertainment or downtime, most of which are TV or tablet based so it was more of a challenge to do the detox during the week.
  • Family bonding: However, many families found they spent a lot more quality time together during the detox which they will continue to do beyond the Challenge.
  • Making the house a home: Many of the participants found that the activities they did during the detox made their homes a nicer place to be, for example, gardening and DIY.
  • Ticking off the to do list: Without digital distractions people found the time to do things that had been on their ‘to do’ list for some time (for example, one family did some tiling in the kitchen and one of the Dads cleaned the kids’ climbing frame in the garden).
  • Enjoying the quiet time: A lot of the households really enjoyed how quiet the house was during the detox as they were able to relax and chill out.
  • But too much quiet time can be lonely: For some participants, especially those who live alone or spend a lot of time at home alone, the detox made them realise how much they count on devices to feel connected. Some of the appliances they have on all the time are in fact an important part of making them feel connected, particularly the TV or radio

Key findings from the families this week:

“It did show that there had been a reduction in the amount of electricity we used even though it was only a two-hour period. It makes you think about what other things could be turned off that aren't being used during the day or in the evening. My wife and I are now very much aware of just how much time is spent with the TV or computer on, whether we're using them or not. It will certainly have an impact on our behavior which will make a noticeable difference to our bills.” Andy Walsall

“Unfortunately, these days my son and I don’t seem to spend much time with each other as he can usually be found in his ‘games’ room most evenings whilst I am in the sitting room. So it was really good to go out for a while just walking and talking. We even stopped off at our local ‘chippy’ and had fish and chips on a park bench watching the world go by. We chatted to a lot of people out walking their dogs and thoroughly enjoyed the time together. So much so, that we have decided to do something similar every week, in good weather and bad. So this has been a very positive and rewarding experience for us both.” Lynne, Manchester

Top 5 detox distractions

  • Chatting with family
  • Gardening
  • Playing games
  • Going out for a walk
  • Playing in the garden

    You can follow the National Smart Meter Challenge with weekly updates and insights on our website here and read blogs from four of the families here. Or why not join in the conversation on twitter using #smartmeterchallenge.

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