This Remote Village has a Smart Hack for Living With Technology

Locals in this remote village are celebrating their human connection.

Dec 15, 2022
This Remote Village has a Smart Hack for Living With Technology | Locals in this remote village are celebrating their human connection.

Mohityache Vadgaon is a remote village in western India that just like the rest of the world has a population glued to its phones and television screens. But unlike most of the rest of the world, the local village council has come up with a trailblazing digital detox solution specifically aimed at next gen villagers to help families bond and get its youth off their devices.

Between 7pm and 8:30pm every evening, residents are encouraged to avoid the chaos of digital gadgets, social media platforms  and TV screens as part of a grassroots digital detox initiative.

Daily ‘digital fasting’
Since this year’s 75th Indian Independence Day on August 15, each evening, at 7pm on the dot, a siren is blown from the Bhairavnath (Hindu) Temple in this village in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, reports The Decan Herald. This signals that it’s time for the 90-minute period of digital-free quality time of face-to-face conversations, reading and relaxation.The second siren goes off at 8:30pm, indicating the end of the digital-free intermission. 

And in this village of farmers and sugar mill workers, as few households have the luxury of separate study areas, a quieter interlude is all the more powerful.

A ‘post-pandemic’ way out of endless screentime
This conscious digital fasting initiative was triggered by the effects of lockdowns during the pandemic, which kickstarted online learning. While TV and mobile phones became the only source of entertainment for many, it was smartphones rather than desktop computers that were being used for education here, The Decan Herald reveals.

However, there were some negative repercussions for local youth, explains the village’s elected Sarpanch or head local decision-maker. Vigay Mohite to newspaper: “Young kids got addicted to mobile phones. While classes were [held] for a few hours, the rest of the day, the kids were glued to their mobile phones.” he shares, adding that there were no physical activities arranged for the students to tempt them away from digital activities. 

When classroom schooling returned, the deterioration in student motivation and attention spans was clear: “classes resumed, teachers realised children had become lazy, did not want to read and write and were mostly engrossed in their mobile phones before and after school hours.”

This observation was supported by others, for instance that of Jayawant Mohite, a recently retired teacher. He told Voa News that when speaking with the families of these distracted students, they found that next gen students were inseparable from their phones, with parents reporting that they were unable to “wean the students off their mobile phones.” Worrying too were how the multitasking nature of internet surfing had hacked away at the students’ ability to concentrate on study.

Mohite decided to create a new reality for this village of around 3500 people. While at first, few were convinced by his digital detox suggestion, he remained determined: “I kept trying and people came with me.” 

He also spoke to various schools to address local kids directly. The village’s community officials and retired teachers lent their support to the campaign, and his persistence paid off. According to Times Now News,The idea has now turned into a council-imposed mandatory practice intended to help children redirect their focus from idling on the internet to studying and encourage adults to interact with the community or undertake intellectual pursuits like reading.”

Significantly, it was persuading local women of the need to get students off their phones to boost their academic performance that moved the digital detox policy along after local men originally scoffed at the idea. Mohite told Voa News: “We gathered the village women, including the mothers of the students, and explained to them how the misuse of mobiles was destroying the future of the children,” he told VOA.

“When we proposed the idea of a digital detox, they all agreed with our concerns about the children and supported our idea.”

Mohite explains that currently, the siren is backed up by the enforcement efforts of groups of volunteers who conduct random checks that the digital detox is being respected.

The chorus of approval!
“Good idea, maybe it should increase to three hours . I think the whole world  should copy it” and “excellent idea ... maybe there's hope for humans yet.” are just some of the overwhelmingly positive talkbacks to the video.

Villagers themselves are grateful to have rehabilitated some quality family time from the clutches of digital devices, with all families now complying with the digital detox rule, according to  Mohite.

“In fact, students too are happy now. The parents are happy. The family can sit together and talk to each other. Those who want to study can study.” 

Mom of two, Vandana Mohite, told BBC News Asia  that while she had found it difficult to supervise her kids as they were immersed in playing with their phones or watching TV, “Since this new norm began, it is far easier for my husband to return home from work and help them study” while freeing her to peacefully get on with other chores.

Dilip Mohite, a sugarcane farmer with three school-aged sons, also celebrates the restoration of his houseuold’s focus on studies and normal conversation that this initiative has given his family.

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.