The Offline Club: Netherlands Pioneers New Approach to Screen Time

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In an era where our lives are increasingly tethered to screens, a countermovement is brewing in the Netherlands. The Offline Club, a chain of digital detox cafes, is offering patrons a radical proposition: leave your phone at the door and rediscover the joys of analog entertainment.

Co-founder Ilya Kneppelhout's vision began with "offline getaway" retreats, evolving into phone-free hangouts that have struck a chord with the digital-weary Dutch. "People love it," Kneppelhout enthuses. "They tell us this is exactly what they've been waiting for."1

The concept is simple yet revolutionary in our hyperconnected world. Customers check their phones at the entrance, then immerse themselves in a space filled with board games, books, and even a piano. The goal? To foster genuine human connection and moments of quiet introspection.

This digital detox movement couldn't come at a more critical time. Research increasingly points to the detrimental effects of excessive screen time on our mental and physical health.

Dr. Larry Rosen, author of "iDisorder," argues that electronic media may contribute to or exacerbate a number of psychological disorders.2 Studies have even proposed diagnostic criteria for "Facebook Addiction Disorder," with one Italian study revealing that 5% of students may be addicted to the internet more generally.3

The health impacts extend beyond mental well-being. A 2010 Australian study showed that for every hour of television viewing, the risk of death from heart disease increased by 18%.4 While television differs from social media use, the sedentary nature and potential for prolonged engagement bear similarities.

Children appear particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of excessive screen time. Research has linked greater television viewing in children to impaired memory, reading comprehension, and attention issues.5

Given these concerns, the Dutch approach to digital detox seems not just appealing, but necessary. The Offline Club has already expanded to multiple cities across the Netherlands and is poised for international launch.

But can this concept truly take root beyond Dutch borders? Kneppelhout is optimistic. "I think that's bad: a counter movement is really necessary, and I think it's happening," he says, referring to the manipulative tactics of big tech companies.6

As we grapple with the long-term effects of our digital dependence, perhaps it's time to take a cue from the Dutch. By creating spaces that prioritize face-to-face interaction and mindful disconnection, we might just rediscover a more balanced way of living in our tech-saturated world.

The Offline Club's success suggests a growing hunger for such spaces. As Kneppelhout points out, "Where else are you going to be in a cafe with 30 others, and read a book or draw? It's quite unique."7

In a world where the ping of notifications constantly demands our attention, the radical act of unplugging - even for a few hours - could be the reset many of us desperately need. The Dutch digital detox movement invites us to consider: what might we gain by losing the constant connection?

To learn more about the harms of digital devices, read our recent report: 

Screen Time Causes Accelerated Skin Aging, and What You Can Do About It


1. Robin Eveleigh, "Dutch digital detoxers unplug en masse. Will the world follow?," Positive News, May 31, 2024.

2. Nathan Daley, "Do You Have Facebook Affective Disorder (FAD)?,", November 13, 2012.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Eveleigh, "Dutch digital detoxers unplug en masse."

7. Ibid.

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