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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

Taking a digital detox....

Why we all need to unplug from our devices from time to time

Over the Carnival period, I was forced to unplug from my phone (which got soaked when I got a little too close to a water trunk during J’ouvert celebrations, but that’s a story for another time!) As a result I had to go phone-free for 48 hours while my phone was drying out, buried in a bowl of rice. Thankfully it all ended well, but during that imposed digital-free time, I became aware of a few hard truths:

  1. How dependent I have become on my phone. It has become the first thing I reach for in the mornings, so my fingers were positively twitching for it as soon as I woke.

  2. How much time I spend idly scrolling on social media. Suddenly I found I had so much more free time on my hands, and put it to good use, by finishing a good book, writing and spending quality family time.

  3. The need to regularly reconnect to myself and my core values. I was able to do that by restarting my lapsed morning meditation practice, going for a long walk with my son and spending time in nature.

So, this got me thinking about the benefits of taking a regular digital detox when we can. For many people, being connected and immersed in the digital world is just a part of everyday life. According to research from the Nielsen Company, the average adult in the US spends around 11 hours each day listening to, watching, reading, or interacting with media. And a 2016 poll conducted by the organization Common Sense Media showed that 50% of teens reported that they felt that they were addicted to their mobile devices.

While there are many benefits to engaging with the digital world, there can be a darker side to being plugged in all the time. One study conducted by researchers in Sweden found that heavy technology use among young adults was linked to sleeping problems, depressive symptoms, and increased stress levels, due to the constant need to keep checking emails, texts, and social media.

For me, I think the answer is balance – getting the best of the digital world while balancing that with regular periods of disconnection and return to self, and those dearest to us. But how do we achieve this? Firstly, it’s important to really look at your recreational or non-essential screen use and set a goal to reduce screen use in any areas that cause you stress or anxiety.

The World Council for Health suggests the following tips:

Set time limits. For example, you may want to set limits on the number of minutes spent on your device each day, or the amount of time spent on apps that cause you stress or anxiety. Maybe you could schedule in designated screen-free periods each week, say around mealtimes or time with family.

Set healthy boundaries. One way to do this is to put your devices out of sight whenever you can, particularly when you want to be really present or focused on a task. Examples might include charging your phone out of sight, or not carrying your phone with you when out in nature or even when you’re socialising with friends.

Use your devices intentionally. Often we scroll through our phones mindlessly with no clear purpose in mind. The next time you pick up your device, ask yourself, “What am I hoping to achieve?” and act in accordance with your intentions.

Disconnect at Bedtime. The blue light that comes off of devices can really interfere with our body’s natural circadian rhythms, and disturb our sleep quality. The usual advice is to switch off devices one hour before bed and avoid charging them in the bedroom.

Switch off notifications. Push notifications designed to grab your attention and make you think something is urgent...when it usually isn’t. So switch them off when you can, particularly at night time.

Let others know! It’s important to delegate if you can and let key persons in your life know when you’ll be having a scheduled disconnect, so they don’t worry about you.

Now fill your new-found extra time with good things like going for a walk, connecting with friends, reading, gardening or journalling. You may wish to regularly schedule a digital detox a few times throughout the year and even involve others so you can encourage one another and keep each other accountable.

Be well,



Dr Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. You can find out more at

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