When you open your smartphone or tablet, what is the first thing you see? Do you often seek out your social media account? What does your newsfeed turn out? More importantly, what does your timeline look like? In today’s fast-paced digital era, anything from small to large screens dominates our lives. Connectivity is constant and a bad mood sets in when there is no internet connection. This is our life now in the era of connectivity and maintaining good mental health has become more challenging than ever. While the digital age has brought unparalleled convenience for us, it also comes with a set of triggers that can impact our mental well-being. Finding a balance between our online and offline lives is crucial for preserving our sanity and keeping a quality lifestyle. Here are seven actionable tips for navigating, safeguarding, and maintaining mental health in the digital age. Read on.
Maintaining Mental Health in the Digital Age: How Hard Is It?
In reality, maintaining mental health in the digital age can be fairly easy for some, especially if you are aware that you are already getting too much screen time and need a break.
However, there is such a thing as gadget addiction.¹
Just like any kind of addiction, there are symptoms, consequences, and withdrawal scenarios that can range from emotional, mental, to even physical. This affliction affects anyone of any age, but it is worse for young children and teenagers because their cognitive functions are not yet fully developed.
Note that children ages 6 to 12 are still developing their ability for concrete operations while teens ages 12 to 18 are still developing complex thinking.²
“Having gadgets for children can be beneficial, as children can be creative through mobile games or with a stimulus for their senses and imagination through some creative applications. However, the overuse of gadgets can make the children rely on them, and it also can lead to addiction if they use them without proper guidance from their parents.” This is a statement from a study conducted on the subject, Gadgets and Their Impact on Child Development.³
Tips to Achieving the Healthy Use of Gadgets in Your Life
These are general tips for maintaining mental health in the digital age. These can apply to both young people and grown-ups, but for the sake of our children, parental guidance is needed in the use of gadgets and social media.
1. Establish Healthy Boundaries
Setting boundaries around your digital devices and online presence is essential. Designate specific times for using technology and commit to unplugging during restful periods. This includes creating tech-free zones in your home or setting boundaries for work-related communication outside of office or school hours.
2. Prioritize Quality Screen Time
Be mindful of the content you consume. Opt for meaningful and uplifting content that nourishes your mind. Limit exposure to negative news or social media posts that may trigger stress or anxiety. Consider curating your social media feeds to include positive and inspiring content. You may also want to use the unfollow or block options for those influencers, celebrities, or even “friends” or relatives that trigger so much negativity.
3. Practice Digital Detox
Regularly disconnect from screens to recharge your mental batteries. Engage in activities that don’t involve technology, such as reading a book, spending time outdoors, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or pursuing hobbies that bring you joy. It will also be good for you to get your daily dose of morning sunlight. You will be healthier and your mood will become better.
4. Cultivate Meaningful Relationships Offline
While online connections are valuable, nurturing real-life relationships is equally important. Make an effort to spend quality time with family and friends face-to-face. Engaging in offline social interactions can significantly improve your mental health and well-being.
5. Exercise and Movement
When we say “mental health”, it does not only involve the brain or the mind. Physical activity plays a crucial role in mental health. Incorporate regular exercise or movement into your routine. Whether it’s yoga, jogging, dancing, or any form of physical activity you enjoy, exercise releases endorphins that boost mood and reduce stress.
6. Set Realistic Expectations
In the digital age, there’s often pressure to constantly achieve and perform. Set realistic goals and avoid comparing yourself to others on social media. Focus on your personal growth and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.
7. Seek Professional Support When Needed
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety or depression, seek help from a mental health professional. “Any disorder with moderate to severe symptoms will have functionality problems, like mood changes that affect relationships, loss of motivation that can affect school or work,” Dr. Charibel Escandilor, MD, DPBP, explains. She is a Doctor of Psychiatry currently practicing in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines.
Therapy or counseling can provide valuable tools and support to navigate challenges in the digital world and enhance your mental well-being. In severe cases that involve other triggers, trauma, or disorders, the doctor might need to prescribe medication.
Safeguard Your Mental Health
By implementing these strategies, you can proactively safeguard and maintain your mental health in the digital age. Remember, it is not about abstaining from the use of gadgets. Going digital is part of our present and it will be more so in the future.
It is about finding a balance between the benefits of technology and taking care of your mental well-being. Balance is the key to leading a fulfilling and healthy life in today’s digital world. Prioritize self-care and make conscious choices. Use technology to improve your lifestyle but do not let it ruin your mental state.
In the simplest terms, when you find yourself getting agitated while scrolling social media, have the good sense to put the gadget down. And if you discover what kinds of posts cause mental or emotional triggers, it would do you good to unfollow such posts so that they don’t find their way into your newsfeed again.
Using gadgets for more than two hours before bedtime can seriously derail your sleep time and the quality of sleep. That is because screentime (and the exposure to blue light) impedes the release of melatonin needed for restful sleep.⁴ (Screens and Your Sleep)
How Parents Can Help Their Children Get Over Gadget Addiction
Helping children overcome gadget addiction requires a proactive and supportive approach from parents. Here are some effective strategies parents can use to guide their children in managing and reducing gadget addiction and also protecting them from online violence:
1. Lead by Example
Parents should model healthy technology habits themselves. Children often emulate their parents’ behaviors, so demonstrating balanced and mindful technology use of technology can positively influence children’s habits. Moreover, if you want to achieve effective communication at home, then all of you have to put down your gadgets and engage in real conversations.
2. Establish Clear Rules and Limits
Set clear guidelines on screen time limits and the use of gadgets. Create a family tech agreement that outlines specific rules for device usage, such as no screens during meals, before bedtime, or during family time.
3. Encourage Alternative Activities
Encourage children to engage in alternative activities that don’t involve gadgets. Spend time on hobbies, outdoor activities, sports, arts, or reading that can divert their attention away from screens and help them develop diverse interests.
4. Monitor and Use Parental Controls
Utilize parental control features available on devices and internet services to limit access to inappropriate content and monitor screen time. These tools can help enforce the agreed-upon rules and provide insights into your child’s online activities.
5. Seek Professional Help if Needed
If gadget addiction significantly impacts a child’s daily life or mental health, seek guidance from mental health professionals specializing in behavioral addictions. Therapists or counselors can offer tailored strategies and support for overcoming addiction. It is better to treat the situation early than to deny it.
- ¹ Gadget Addiction, Feel & Heal Counseling Services, https://fhcscounseling.com/blog/services/gadget-addiction/
- ² Cognitive Development in Teen Years, Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=cognitive-development-90-P01594#
- ³ Zarina Mohd Zain, Fatin Nur Najidah Jasmani, Nurul Hadirah Haris, and Suzei Mat Nurudin, Gadgets and Their Impact on Child Development, International Academic Symposium of Social Science, 2022, https://www.mdpi.com/2504-3900/82/1/6#
- ⁴ Joanna A. Cooper, M.D., Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation, Screens and Your Sleep: The Impact of Nighttime Use, https://www.sutterhealth.org/health/sleep/screens-and-your-sleep-the-impact-of-nighttime-use#