Danielle Easton, Content Manager at Qustodio, explains how and why you should go Scroll Free.
I’ve been creating content for Qustodio for over a year now. Working at a company whose goal is to preserve kids and teens’ digital wellbeing certainly makes me reflect on my own childhood in the eighties/early nineties. Weren’t times simpler back then! Technology was available, although it was much less sophisticated or advanced than it is now.
We enjoyed playing video games, listening to music (no Spotify for us - today’s kids will never know the heartbreak of a chewed up cassette) and calling our friends to gossip (albeit on the landline, those prehistoric contraptions that are bamboozling kids in videos on the internet lately).
And to think how far we’ve come since then! Thanks to a plethora of apps, there’s really no limit as to how we can spend our time. From communicating with loved ones on the other side of the world, online shopping, reading e-books and the latest news from around the globe, to learning a new language, reuniting with old school friends and even finding a potential partner, to pretty much getting the answer to anything at the click of a button, all from the comfort of our own home.
As with everything, there is a downside. More apps mean more screen time and when things are so easy and convenient, it’s hard to say no. Slowly we start to lose control and addiction creeps in. We stop speaking to each other face to face, reserving all interaction for the online sphere, our trusty mobile always by our side (when it’s not in our face).
As a result, our social skills have worsened and we’ve forgotten how to express ourselves (when was the last time you received an email without an emoji? Lol). We’re becoming less honest, with people only uploading what they want others to see in a range of pretty filters on social media feeds.
Comparing ourselves to others is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Our attention span is shorter, as we carelessly try to multitask, sending WhatsApps and checking Insta while walking blindly down the street. And still we crave more. We’ve developed this overwhelming desire to be connected 24/7 in case, can you even imagine, we miss out.
And it’s not just our mental wellbeing at stake here. Spending so much time hunched over the screen has impacted our physical health too. We’ve managed to coin a whole new list of digital ailments from ‘text neck’ to ‘selfie elbow’ caused by unnatural positions and repetitive strain to our joints. Fewer kids are going out to play and childhood obesity is at an all-time high. The blue light from our mobiles has knocked our sleeping patterns out of whack. The list goes on. Even now you’re reading about this on a screen, oh the irony!
So what’s the answer? There’s no magic formula. Going device-free is not only virtually impossible in this day and age but highly impractical. Instead, it’s a matter of finding a healthy digital balance that works for you. Why not start as you mean to go on and use #ScrollFreeSeptember as an excuse to improve your digital hygiene? Some ideas to get you started might be:
- Unplug to disconnect. Switch off all screens at least an hour before bed to stop that nasty blue light playing havoc with your sleep. If you’re bored, read a book! (You have two more reasons to than normal with National Read a Book Day and UNESCO’s International Literacy Day this month!)
- Catch up with a friend, face to face.
- Take breaks from the screen. At work, make sure you step away from the PC at least once an hour. Stretch. Grab a glass of water. Look out of the window.
- Cut down or at least become more aware of just how often you check your phone. Try downloading an app that tracks how many times you open your phone throughout the day. You’ll be amazed.
- Get moving! Instead of sitting staring at your phone, join the gym or go for a walk.
This month, let’s replace FOMO with JOMO - the joy of missing out. Reclaim the time you normally invest in social media and spend it on you. Rediscover the things you love: get back to nature, enjoy a coffee with friends, practise sport, take up a new class... What’s the worst that could happen?