Are you in need of some digital self-restraint?

Could you do the digital 5:2 – forego your phone for two days a week and limit your overall use on other days? As a sleep deprived, over worked and at times lonely parent or soon to be parent, limiting your screen time could be just what you need

 

Where would we be without our trusty smartphones? The genius devices that enable us to bank, shop, socialise, exercise and for many couples today, become pregnant, manage our newborns and engage with the wider parenting world.

Our phones will do just about anything than take away labour pains and babysit (although they can help you sort a babysitter) but increasingly we’re hearing that the influx of technology in our lives and the data deluge that we consume daily, is having an adverse effect on our mental health, relationships and parenting.

The average adult in the UK now checks their smartphone 150 times a day and spends more than 12 hours a week on social media. This time used to be spent reading books, engaging face-to-face with family and friends or simply just rolling around on the floor with a toddler.

Research by the journal of Child Development has found a link between “technoference” – technology-based interruptions in parent-child interactions and poor child behaviour, and refers to “absent parenting” when using tech around children. Those who took part in the study even admitted to feeling “less effective in parenting” when preoccupied with their phones.

So where does all this tapping and rubbing up a tiny computer screen leave us? Scientifically, depressed and disengaged. According to research by University College London, media-multitasking is weakening our brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in high-level information and emotion processing. Our dependence on smartphones has also seen rates in depression rise. Seven million Brits now claim to be depressed when viewing friends “perfect lives” on social media, even though we now know these snapshots are completely staged and filtered.

But don’t think that your friend who has posted this image isn’t suffering too, because every time someone uploads an image on social media, it causes a high, followed very quickly by a low. Dopamine, a brain chemical that makes us happy, is released and it’s highly addictive. Once the “likes” or flattering comments on a Facebook go away, it makes us crave more and if we don’t get it, we feel lonely and brittle.

We can all agree that it is nice to turn to our smartphones for light relief but when that mode of relaxation now comes with health warnings and has seen rates of addiction rise, is it time to consider whether we could all benefit from going offline more often? For many that is a digital detox – creating boundaries for you are your phone as an opportunity to reduce stress and boost happiness by reconnecting with the world offline.

Time to Log Off, a digital detox company has spearheaded the digital 5:2, which seems like a decent compromise in a world that is hard to function without smartphones. They recommend using technology five days a week and taking two days off. Those two days mean turning your phone off and putting it away in a drawer. To survive those days they recommend getting an analogue alarm clock for your bedroom and letting family and friends know that you are doing it, and can be reached on a house phone if they want to speak to you.

Refraining for two days doesn’t meaning binging and making up for lost time on the other five days. Creating boundaries, like turning your phone off two hours before going to bed, only allowing yourself to look at emails or social media during a set time in the day and keeping your phone out of the bedroom, so that it doesn’t become a crutch if you can’t sleep, are recommended on days that you are plugged in.

The good news is, the results are tempting, from the obvious improved sleep, reduced anxiety, increased productivity and better eating habits to spending less money and being more polite and engaged in the world.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the never-ending stream of parenting articles that you have bookmarked to read and texts that you need to respond to or perhaps it’s something as extreme as feeling like you’ve lost who you are through the overuse of social media – a break from digital life is the only way to really find out where it all started to go wrong. Give it a try and very soon you could be wondering why the urge post all your activities online was ever there to begin with.