We have become pre-programmed to turn to our screens for everything. At work we stare endlessly at our screens for almost the entire day. Outside of work, we use our devices to keep informed about news, the weather, where to go for the cheapest fuel, researching recipes or what events are on this weekend. We use our devices to keep in touch with friends and family throughout the day, with many using social media and messaging, so conversations are on screen and we find ourselves constantly checking for updates. After a long day, and especially in winter, it’s so easy to hibernate indoors and turn on the TV or one of our devices for instant entertainment. With Netflix, Stan, YouTube and so many other on-demand options we have available to access the latest movies, series and videos, it’s easy to binge watch hours of our free time away.
Our Screen Addiction Is Affecting Our Kids.
While it’s fantastic we have all this technology available at our fingertips, the reality is, we have created an unhealthy lifestyle with our screen addiction. What’s more worrying is the precedent we are setting and how this is affecting the next generation. Research shows that excessive screen usage affects the brain’s frontal cortex which controls our impulses and decision making. This area of the brain doesn’t fully develop til our early 20’s which is why teens often engage in risky behaviour. Furthermore, it has been found that excessive use of screens will stunt this development and is also shown to reduce the grey matter in the brain. This is why every time we hand over our mobile phone to our toddler to pacify them or “babysit”, it’s like giving them a hit of “digital heroin”.
By breaking the cycle we have created for ourselves, and switching off our screens, we are effectively switching ourselves on.
QUALITY FAMILY TIME
We allow ourselves to connect better with each other. Without the distraction of screens, we will have better communication with more eye contact. We will be more interested in one another and find time to get to know one another better.
Our energy is drained constantly listening out for the notifications of new messages, emails and from scrolling for new content on social media or endless binge of TV or gaming. Without this anxiety and pull, we will feel refreshed with renewed energy and drive to pursue more fulfilling interests.
Allowing ourselves and our children especially, to be bored is a good thing. Boredom is the vehicle for creativity. It allows their mind wander and imaginations to grow. They will discover there is so much more to life.
Our kids will develop better social skills as they learn to communicate with each other better face to face without the interruption and distraction of screens. They will connect better through other more engaging games and activities.
MORE EFFICIENT & EFFECTIVE
We will become more effective and efficient in the way we carry out our everyday lives without the distraction and pull of technology. We will find time to achieve more in our day as we will have better focus with less distraction.
HOBBIES & INTERESTS
We will discover new (and maybe rediscover old) hobbies and interests if we shift our focus from screens as our only form of entertainment. We allow ourselves to consider and pursue other activities.
TIME FOR OUTDOORS
Switching off will allow us spend more time outside, breathe in fresh air, be more active and perhaps even find new interests and make new friends.
FITTER & HEALTHIER
Switching off and finding more time to be outside and means we will be more active as we move around more and engage in healthier activities. We will also get more natural light and Vitamin D boosting immunity and general well being.
With screens, we are exposed to blue light which causes eyestrain and fatigue. Furthermore, our eyes are only focusing on the screen at close range. For long periods, this is especially damaging for children’s developing eyesight, even causing myopia. By switching off, and allowing kids time to find other activities outdoors, will allow their eyes to focus on a range of distances, depths and natural light. This allows their eyes to recover.
DEEPER MORE RESTFUL SLEEP
Switching off at least an hour before bedtime will help us sleep better as exposure to the harmful blue light from our electronic devices disrupts our body’s internal clock and rhythm. Exposure to the blue light from our screens also suppresses our melatonin levels.
How Do We Switch Off?
Switching off might be harder than we expected. We have come to be so reliant on our devices, we fear that we will be lost without them. First of all it’s important to acknowledge that there certainly are positives – most notably how much technology helps us make many tasks so much easier, such as work and researching information, keeping in touch or even being able to book and purchase products and services online. However, as with everything, we need to find a balance and ensure that we are not having too much of a good thing. Here are some tips for switching off and finding time for other things:
Do it slowly. If you’re not doing it already, introduce screen-free meal times to begin with. You may then feel comfortable working up to 1 (or more) screen free days a week.
Set limits early on. Experts advise on zero screen time until the age of 18-24 months of age, after which one hour a day is the recommended limit (for toddlers). Whatever your decision, be firm with the limit you have set, for yourself and for your children.
Introduce activities outdoors and try to involve the whole family. Explore your local parks and trails on foot or bike. Try hiking in one of our many national parks, pack a family picnic and a soccer ball.
Switch off all devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Go on, be brave and make the change. Restore balance in your life and take note of the positive changes in behaviour. You’ll feel better for it and your family will reap the benefits of a healthier and more active lifestyle.