In today’s digital age, we’re inundated with smartphones, tablets, and computers, giving us access to social media, news channels, and video content 24/7. While there are many benefits to technology, being ‘plugged in’ all the time can have a detrimental effect on our well-being.
Young people, in particular, can be prone to unhealthy habits when it comes to their relationship with technology. Digital well-being is important for all ages, and luckily there are ways to help you and your family develop a healthy relationship with technology.
The Impact of Tech Overload
Constant access to technology affects us in a variety of ways, both physically and mentally. The blue light emitted from devices, for example, has been shown to negatively impact the quality of our sleep.
Social media usage can increase anxiety and stress, as well as affect self-esteem and confidence, as we are inundated with images and content that makes us question our own image and achievements. Teens can be at risk of cyberbullying, trolling, and feelings of isolation.
If you’re constantly checking messages and notifications, or spending hours playing online games, it can be a distraction from the realities of your day-to-day life. Not only does tech overwhelm us mentally but it can have a physical impact, causing what’s known as ‘tech neck’ and putting a strain on our eyes.
Technology can be overbearing, leading to difficulties with our emotional health, social connections, and productivity, as well, which is why establishing a healthy relationship with technology is so critical. From a neurological perspective, obsessing over technology operates in a similar way to chemical addictions, where the expectation is followed by a reward that releases dopamine in the brain. Over time, we begin to crave this dopamine release and may even need increased stimulus to get the same effect.
Since the pandemic, we’ve all encountered increased screen time – particularly teens and young people. In fact, studies have shown that kids and teens have shown lowered levels of physical activity, less time outdoors, higher sedentary behavior, and increased screen time, which have contributed to a rise in their inability to concentrate, disrupted sleep cycles, and irritability. While it’s unattainable to cut digital tools out of our lives completely, striking a healthier balance is possible to improve our well-being.
4 Ways to Manage Technology Usage at Home
1. Manage Notifications
Notifications are one of the biggest challenges when it comes to limiting screen time. From breaking news to messages and emails, likes, and retweets, there’s always something popping up on our screens to divert our attention and shift our focus back to our phones and laptops. The majority of us feel as though we need to respond to these notifications immediately, but research suggests that it takes over 20 minutes to regain focus once you’ve become interrupted.
There are ways to manage the ways in which you and your family are alerted to the latest updates. You can alter the settings on your phone or computer to silence these pop-ups, but there are also tools you can install to give yourself time to focus on other things, such as quality time with family, homework, or hobbies.
2. Set a New Schedule
Habits can be hard to break, but not impossible. For all members of the family, creating new habits and a schedule that encourages healthier relationships with technology can help. Taking time out of each day and diligently making an effort to spend time together without devices in hand can help you to prioritize family time.
Whether it’s no screens around the dinner table or time in the evenings where you spend time together to discuss the day’s events, it can be a welcome break for the mind to step away from devices, even if only for an hour.
Investing in a digital toolbox helps every member of the family in getting the most from their screen tech without it becoming all-consuming, and helps to encourage better parent-child relationships. Using safety tools can allow parents to set controls to keep kids safe and provides a starting point for conversations about healthier tech usage.
3. Engage in Family Therapy
When the pull of technology is too strong, and you or your family members are struggling to quit using specific applications, such as gaming, social media, or online gambling sites, therapy can help.
With family therapy, the goal is to heal the whole family system, not just the affected individual. It helps everyone in the group to support each other and develop coping mechanisms, while also engaging in activities together in a meaningful way.
4. Take the Games Offline
Using actual events and hands-on activities to help you log off not only allows you to focus on spending time with one another without screens interfering, but it can also help to give you that dopamine release without the need for technology. Why not find a local sports group in your area that you can join together, sign up to the gym as a family, or get involved with a bigger goal such as a marathon that you can train for together?
Alternatively, if gaming is what you miss, why not join a board game group in your area or start one yourself? The goal is to find fun things to do together that don’t center around your tech devices, giving you the same rewards and the ability to socialize without the need for social channels or online gaming sites.
Additionally, play-based learning with technology can happen without the need for a screen, app, or electronic device. A screenless programmable robot car, like Sphero indi, is designed for kids in PK–2nd grade to learn the fundamentals of programming and coding through color-based commands. indi takes the logic of computational thinking and problem solving and pairs it with the live, interactive experience of indi’s movements in the real world, off screen.
All of us, whatever our age, need to exercise moderation when it comes to technology. There’s no denying it’s a useful addition to our modern lives, but it can all too easily become a crutch on which we depend. Technology has its purpose and benefits but making sure it remains something we can step away from without any side effects is essential.
Opinions expressed by Sphero.com contributors are their own.