Dig­i­tal detox:

We’re a na­tion of screen junkies – can tak­ing time-out from tech­nol­ogy im­prove our health? Sheree Mut­ton in­ves­ti­gates.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - Contents - AWW

take time out from the tablet

It’s 7.36pm and I’ve just walked out of the of­fice af­ter a long day in front of my com­puter. Don’t be fooled, though, this doesn’t mean I am dis­con­nect­ing just yet. still have a few emails to send on my com­mute home and I need to check my work sched­ule for tomorrow. I’ll then aim­lessly scroll through my Face­book and In­sta­gram feeds, be­fore stream­ing a new tele­vi­sion se­ries on my tablet.

I’m a part of a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple who don’t switch off from the wired world.

Mil­lions of Ki­wis spend the equiv­a­lent of two work­ing days a week on the in­ter­net, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 sur­vey by re­search com­pany Nielsen. Whether it is on a smart­phone, ta­ble or lap­top, 3.1 mil­lion Ki­wis (about 70 per cent) spend 16 hours on­line a week.

“My be­lief is that ad­dic­tion to tech­nol­ogy (though not tech­nol­ogy it­self) is our great­est threat and is caus­ing an epi­demic of health is­sues,” writes Ja­son Baw­den-Smith in his book, In the Dark. “We are hooked: we love our phones, our Wi-Fi, our com­put­ers and all the con­ve­nience of city liv­ing, and it would be hard to wean our­selves off th­ese ev­ery­day lux­u­ries. We have be­come

ad­dicted to tech­nol­ogy,” he ex­plains.

Stud­ies show that ex­ces­sive use of smart­phones and tablets, along with desk­top use, is se­ri­ously af­fect­ing our health and may even re­sult in bad pos­ture, ris­ing stress lev­els, prob­lems sleep­ing or in­som­nia, anx­i­ety and headaches. But is go­ing on a dig­i­tal detox the an­swer? Psy­chol­o­gist Jo­ce­lyn Brewer says no.

“Tech­nol­ogy is not ‘ad­dic­tive’ of­fi­cially. Per­pet­u­at­ing the no­tion that tech­nol­ogy use is be­yond some­one’s con­trol is mis­lead­ing. We have the choice as to how to use tech­nol­ogy; call­ing it ad­dic­tive is not a use­ful way to de­scribe it,” she says.

Jo­ce­lyn says we should be fo­cused on our us­age habits and pre­vent­ing prob­lem­atic in­ter­net use and overuse, rather than choos­ing to do a short­term dig­i­tal detox. “At­tempt­ing a dig­i­tal detox with­out any form of cog­ni­tive re­struc­tur­ing or re­flec­tion – that is, a com­po­nent ded­i­cated to con­sid­er­ing our tech­no­log­i­cal habits and what drives our on­line be­hav­iours – will be un­likely to have long-term im­pacts on im­prov­ing our re­la­tion­ship to tech­nol­ogy,” she says.

“In the same way a juice detox doesn’t have long-term im­pacts on our re­la­tion­ship with food, it’s sim­ply a short-term re­stric­tion.”

So, rather than sign­ing off so­cial me­dia for a few days or ig­nor­ing a bun­dle of emails, here are a cou­ple of tips to cut down your dig­i­tal use.

Make a plan

Set times for us­ing your de­vices to check ap­point­ments, no­ti­fi­ca­tions and emails, and avoid us­ing your phone or tablet dur­ing meal­times and fam­ily time. If you’re able to, switch off your de­vices for set pe­ri­ods each day and don’t re­spond to ev­ery beep or buzz. Re­duce screen time be­fore bed

Stop screen time at least 30 min­utes be­fore go­ing to bed, to help your mind and body un­wind. Be­fore putting aside your de­vices for this dig­i­tal-free pe­riod, turn off no­ti­fi­ca­tions for emails, ap­pli­ca­tions and texts. This will re­sult in fewer sleep dis­rup­tions.

HOOKED! Around 70 per cent of Ki­wis spend 16 hours a week on a smart­phone, tablet or lap­top – that’s the equiv­a­lent of two work­ing days.

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