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