Being “always-on” can be a source of stress – but it’s also a conscious decision.
2019 was the year we saw a growing awareness of the potential dangers of time spent online – for parents and children alike. When UK communications regulator Ofcom published a report in May showing that 83% of adults and 91% of 12 to 15-year-olds have at least one concern about experiencing something harmful online, this signified positive news! As a society, we’re becoming more aware of the positive and negative aspects of spending time online. Often the risks we hear about in the media are concentrated on those infrequent (albeit highly damaging) cases of online abuse or sexual exploitation.
Keeping safe online is really important, which is where parental control software with features like apps blocking and web filtering proves its value. But it’s equally important to establish habits that will help us stay in control of how we choose to fit technology into our everyday lives.
Let’s make 2020 the year we take back control of how we use technology! Spoiler alert: the solution is not just to charge your phone outside of your bedroom. Here are 7 suggestions to help you grow conscious everyday relationships with technology:
Keep your values in mind
Most importantly, what values do you want to live by in 2020 and how will technology help you achieve them? Do you want to be more connected to your family? How will technology help you? If you want to be more efficient at work, will technology aid or distract you from achieving that goal? If you want to be more financially savvy, what tech tools will help you (e.g. budgeting apps like Mint), versus those that might make it harder to achieve your goals (one-click online shopping)?
Be a master of your own time
You don’t need to be online all the time! Set boundaries around your time, and give yourself regular tech breaks. Choose those times in your day or week when you want to be connected – and the times when you don’t. Just as you might clean your teeth or go to bed at the same time every day, keep your technology patterns part of your daily routine.
Set boundaries – and stick to them
There are endless ways to stay connected to our colleagues and friends. Facebook for acquaintances, Slack for work, WhatsApp for family and close friends... Be conscious of the channels you use and their purpose. If blurring the lines on communication channels makes you feel out of control, be strict about maintaining the boundaries you set. Which brings us on to number 4...
Don’t give in to peer pressure
In the year when we take back control, it is absolutely OK to be clear about your boundaries when it comes to communication. If you don’t feel like you can always reply instantly to messages (or don’t want to) – then let your friends and family know that: “From this year forth, I won’t always be checking my messages.” Encourage them to call you with any urgent matters, and explain you will get back to them for everything else at a good time.
Consciously opt in to group chats (and don’t feel bad for stepping out!)
Your child’s class WhatsApp group is a great example here, and a source of stress for many parents, who feel obligated to join in. Suggest that the class rep sets up 2 groups - one for important, ‘need to know’ announcements, and one for social chatter, which is optional. For group events where you don’t have anything to add or gain, it’s fine to leave! You can always send a message along the lines of: “Whilst I really value you all individually, I’m doing my best to stay more in control of my phone habits this year, and am limiting my messaging groups. I’m going to leave this group - it’s nothing personal!”
Observe how you feel
The single most powerful way to take control of every aspect of your life. How does scrolling Instagram really make you feel? Are there certain influencers who entertain you and others who bring you down? Perhaps it’s time to make some changes. Similarly, does doing a certain activity (e.g. internet banking) on your phone frustrate you? Then observe that, batch your tasks and save it for when you are near a desktop.
Keep on top of technology’s grip by asking yourself questions: Am I in control right now? Do I know what purpose I am using my tech for? Is it helping me with my goal? Am I comfortable with how my data is being used?
Bringing consciousness to the forefront of your mind will take some effort at first, but it will soon become second nature. The simplest thing I’ve done to stay aware? Updated my screen saver to remind me! Get creative and design your own, or download one of ours (right click and save).
Realising that you’re the one in control is the first step. From then on you’ll start to relish the freedom that a mindful relationship with technology can bring, and you might even find yourself more productive and with more time to enjoy the things you truly love!
Leading by example is also the best way to instil healthy tech habits in your own children, and I can guarantee they will benefit from your extra attention (and that zen attitude!). More time spent on the things that you love and less time wasted on those that you don’t? I can’t think of a better resolution for the new year!