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A reflection on Cyber Break 2021

So…how was it for you? As the dust settles on our second successful annual Cyber Break, we wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the experience of disconnecting completely and reconnecting with those and the world around us.



The idea behind Cyber Break was always simple. Its intention is a positive, empowering day promoted in a nonjudgmental fashion: a chance to refocus on how much time we spend online and how integral this has become to our daily lives, something the last 18 months of the pandemic has highlighted even more. Even before COVID, this was no surprise to us at CyberSafeKids. Children’s time online has doubled over the last decade. Studies also show that children’s use of smart devices starts at an earlier age. We surveyed almost 4,000 8 – 12 year olds, as part of our own research published last month, and found that 93% owned their own smart device, and 84% were signed up to social media and messaging apps, despite minimum age restrictions of at least 13. YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and WhatsApp are the most popular apps with this age group.

As you can see from our key stats for Cyber Break above, lots of schools and families got involved, a number we hope to see increase year on year, and we hope someday that Cyber Break will be an annual event in everybody’s calendar (much like Safer Internet Day for example). A dedicated opportunity to ‘digitally detox’. CyberSafeKids would like to say a huge thank you to all the people who participated in Cyber Break 2021. We hope that you were able to fill the long empty hours stretching ahead of you without your internet-enabled devices by using our family fun guides, or better yet, coming up with your own plans and ideas! 

In the interests of practising what we preach, our own Sales & Marketing Manager, Aoife Keogh and her family participated in the day, starting from 5 pm on Friday 15th October. Here are her reflections on the day….  

Who was involved in your household, and how did they feel about it?

My family were very aware of Cyber Break as they’ve heard me going on about it for the last few weeks. While my husband agrees that it’s a good idea in theory, I am not sure he realised he would be participating. His iPhone is constantly attached to him, and he can’t sit through a meal or movie without checking it. He claims it’s for work but I know he feels the need to know ALL the latest sports results! My daughter is only 7 so doesn’t have her own device but she does like to watch Netflix on the family tablet. She was excited about her dad not checking his phone for 24 hours – and was even more excited when she heard about CyberBreak on the news.

How did you prepare for CyberBreak in advance and what exactly happened at your house at 5pm on Friday, when CyberBreak started? 

Funnily enough last year I had no problem switching off at 5pm, but this year was different. I had lost track of time reviewing a work document when suddenly it was 4.40pm. I realised I had to do my weekly shop (online) and I had online Covid forms to fill out for my daughter’s weekend sport and I had a ton of WhatsApp messages that I needed to check. It felt very stressful switching off.  

Photo courtesy of Aoife Keogh


What did you do with the devices and how was the first hour without devices? Did it get easier? 

The laptop went into a bag and the phone and tablet went into a bedroom drawer. I was fine that night, but struggled the next morning. We have a new pup and like a baby, he has us up very early in the morning. After I let him out and made myself a cuppa, I was a bit lost without my phone. I’d usually check my emails, text friends, check the news, check my sleep rating on my fitbit, check my internet banking etc. Finally I ended up opening my puppy training book that I’ve had for months but hadn’t looked at – and I baked a cake. And mopped the kitchen floor… Exciting stuff 😉

What activities did you do during these 24 hours together with your family?

I baked with my daughter. I had an amazing walk down the beach with the dog. I played Top Trumps and Lego and read.

How did your daughter and husband react? 

My daughter loved being the ‘CyberBreak Police’. At one point, I was going to ring my mum as we were organising to meet but I got caught and told to wait till after 5pm! She definitely caught my husband a few times taking his phone out and he got guilted into putting it away!

How did you all feel after the 24hrs of digital detox were over? 

After 5pm on Saturday, I had gotten used to not being on my phone. After checking my phone for any urgent messages (nothing urgent, surprise surprise!), it stayed up in the bedroom for most of the rest of the weekend, which I think tells a story perhaps of how vital having it all the time really is. 

Photo courtesy of Aoife Keogh

Were your experiences similar to Aoife’s? Get in touch as we would love to hear from you! And until CyberBreak 2022, keep an eye on that healthy offline-online balance. If you’re struggling, here’s some advice:

  • Try to make sure that your phone is not the first thing that you look at in the morning. Make it an active choice to do something else – stretching, meditating, eating breakfast. 
  • Avoid using your phone as an alarm clock (there are plenty of alternatives) and try to keep devices out of the bedroom so your device use doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
  • Try and make mealtimes, especially if it’s with others, a device-free time.
  • Actively decide what you consider to be ‘time well spent’ online. If it’s not endlessly scrolling through social media then make a deliberate effort to to limit it.
  • Switch on the “do not disturb mode”, so you won’t receive notifications, messages or calls for periods of time when you need to focus or switch off.
  • Create a family agreement that everybody signs-up to, which has identified device free times – i.e. family movie/pizza nights on a Friday.

Continue to stay safe and smart online, and we hope to see you all next year with an even bigger and better CyberBreak 2022! 


Posted on:

Oct 20, 2021


CyberSafeKids is an Irish charity, which has been empowering children, parents, schools and businesses to navigate the online world in a safer and more responsible way since 2015.