Time for a technology diet?

Most parents will already know how important it is to limit screen time for kids. But have you ever stopped to think about what implications all that scrolling, clicking and watching might be having on your own health?

From work to socialising, and from phones to laptops to tablets, we rely on our devices for almost every aspect of our lives. The average UK adult spends more than 5 hours per day looking at a screen, and checks their phone every ten minutes.

Too much screen time can contribute to a range of psychological and physiological problems. Rates of depression and anxiety in young people globally have risen by more than 70% in the past 25 years, while a recent study into high-screen usage by Dr Kiki Leutner from University College London found it affected people’s behaviour within relationships, concentration levels and led to some people losing touch with the real world.

What’s more, looking at a screen for extended periods of time can cause strained, dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches. Studies have also linked heavy computer and smartphone use to increased sleeping issues, with the blue light from digital devices shown to suppress our melatonin: an important sleep-promoting hormone.

Switching off

Now, don’t get us wrong – we love technology! It makes our lives so much easier and has enabled us to connect with each other in a myriad of new ways. But, in the same way that we might limit our enjoyable-but-unhealthy food and beverage habits, it is important to take a mindful approach to the amounts of time we spend swiping and scrolling.

Switching off altogether is unrealistic (and unnecessary) for most of us. Finding your balance can be as simple as setting some boundaries and establishing more ‘screen-free’ hours into your day-to-day. Here’s a few ways to incorporate more time away from screens:

  • Make your bedroom a phone-free zone
    Here, you should be focusing on calm and relaxation, spending quality time with loved ones, and getting 8+ hours of restorative sleep. But for many of us, smartphone and tablets play an all-too-prominent role in this space. According to a 2018 Deloitte survey, 11% of adults check their mobile phones immediately when they wake up, 12% do the same before they go to bed, and a shocking 30% of Australians check their mobile phone in the middle of the night. Give your brain the break it deserves and leave your phone out of the bedroom, you’ll be amazed at how better you sleep
  • Take a screen-free lunch break
    By the middle of the day, chances are you’ve already spent a solid three or four hours glued to a screen. Lunchtime is a great opportunity to give your eyes and brain a break by closing your laptop and switch your phone off. Instead, use this time to take a walk outside, catch up with a friend (in real life!), and eat your lunch while reading a book under a tree.
  • Digital detox weekend
    Patchy network coverage used to mean that country weekends were typically screen-free, whether we liked it or not! But nowadays, you might need to be a little more deliberate about switching off that phone or leaving that laptop at home for a few days. A whole weekend off-the-grid might seem like a lot to begin with, but trust us, you’ll likely get used to it within a few hours and find yourself really enjoying the experience. Connecting with the world around us, and focusing on the ‘now’ is a lot easier when you’re not plugged into social media feeds. The best part is, you’ll return from your weekend away refreshed, recharged and with plenty of photos to upload.