Boss Lady

How busy working mums can avoid kids’ screen addiction


For those who have known life before and after the boom of the internet, it’s common to think it’s the “kids of today” who are spending increasing amounts of time on their phones, laptops and social media or with kids headphones seemingly glued to their ears. However, statistics show that adults too are just as reliant on technology – an obsession that does more bad than good for working mums. Recent studies have shown that 93% of adults own a mobile phone and check it at least 30 times a day, 25% use the phone during a meal and a whopping 40% continue to use their phone when spending time with friends and family. Prolonged, these habits can produce a negative impact on relationships, wellbeing and job performance. Below are a few tips aimed at bustling businesswoman who want to digitally-detox their everyday activities to achieve a healthy balance between work, family and leisure.

Knowing when to switch off

We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is greatly beneficial for your physical and mental wellbeing. Screen workingtime just before going to sleep can confuse the brain into thinking it is still daytime, and inhibit the process of falling asleep. Despite recommendations that screens be turned off at least an hour before turning out the lights, only 25 per cent of Australians are switching off in time. So, to avoid sluggishness, dark circles and the “you look tired” remarks from co-workers, it’s important to know when to go offline. Free apps such as DinnerTime – which automatically locks smartphones and disables users from browsing the Web or texting friends – can be helpful in kick-starting your ability to switch off on a regular basis.

Facing the FOMO

According to the Deloitte 2016 Mobile Consumer Survey, a third of Australian adults use their devices ‘always’ or ‘very often’ when spending time with friends, walking or watching TV, whilst 48% of admit to using their phone at work. This addiction to devices and the urge to check regularly and respond instantly must be a response to our growing fear of missing out, or perhaps our love of being always-on. But parenting expert Anna Partridge warns of the risks of this impulse on mental wellbeing, particularly for adolescents: “Anxiety and depression have increased because of their need to be more ‘in the group’ than we did,”.

While concerned mothers cannot completely cure the FOMO, alternative ways of staying in touch with news – whether through books, newspapers, magazines – is encouraged. Deep reading of print, as opposed to the sluggish scanning we do on the Web, has been proven to make us smarter and happier, according to a 2013 study by Britain’s National Literacy Trust. It found that people who read daily only onscreen were nearly two times less likely to be above-average readers than those who read daily in print or both in print and onscreen. With this in mind, why not take your favourite classic novel or celeb magazine and enjoy it by the beach? Your brain will thank you!

Tech-free fun

In a climate of increased hyper connectivity and demand for data, it seems almost impossible to ignore the allure of Internet. By returning to traditional methods of entertainment, antisocial behaviour is replaced with genuine social bonding, and communication and problem-solving skills are enhanced. This is affirmed by Dartmouth College film and media studies professor, Mary Flanagan, who explains that board games prompt us to reflect on “turn-taking and rules and fairness.”

In response to the smartphone epidemic, I worked with her husband and 8-year-old daughter Freya to create The WeDo Game – a collection of screen-free activities that help families rediscover the benefits of spending quality time together. As a busy working mum, the game was designed to easily fit into hectic schedules and we found it’s really been a great way to spend quality time together with our loved ones away from digital distractions.

While the physical and social consequences of screen time must be considered, it is important to recognise that a digital detox is more about improving digital habits rather than cutting technology out altogether.

“Whether we love it or not, technology is here to stay,” says Dr Kirsty Goodwin, a researcher in the field of parenting and technology. “Rather than saying don’t use technology, it’s about developing healthy habits so screens don’t impact on physical and mental health.”

Such a view is supported by Clinical Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, who says that whether you are a parent or not, carving out time to turn off your devices — to disconnect from the wired world and engage with the real people who are all around you — is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and the people you love.

About Alexandra Drury'

Alexandra Drury is the Co-Founder of the award-winning game encouraging families to spend quality time together, The WeDo Game . Alexandra also works in the Cyber Security Industry and is a mother of two.

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