Mental Health//

3 Ways to Build Mentally Healthier Tech Habits

When it comes to your mental health, a few small steps can make a serious difference.

PeopleImages/ Getty Images
PeopleImages/ Getty Images

Welcome to Thriving Mind, a resource to help you understand your individual signs of stress, take small steps to recharge, and unlock better mental health.

Everywhere we go, teens and adults alike are looking down with their heads in their phones. In fact, “half of American teens have self reported they’re ‘feeling addicted’ to their devices1.”

“At school, people are quieter,” confides Olivia, an 18-year-old high school senior2.

American Offline, a new digital wellness initiative, recognizes tech usage challenges exist for everyone, not just teens. However, they are focusing on changing the world by inspiring a new wave of leaders. 

Change Happens Fast

57% more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. In just the three years between 2012 and 2015, 22% more teens failed to get seven hours of sleep2. 

Who Is Responding 

To combat growing technology attachment challenges, America Offline is designing immersive events where participants experience the power of connecting with peers offline and in nature. Through offline overnight weekend events and shorter workshops, America Offline is utilizing experiential education methods and design challenge learning to generate memorable and meaningful conversations which inspire a new way of interacting with technology. 

“We are immersing our teen and adult participants in a visceral offline experience which exposes them to new ways of thinking, tech-life balance tools and enriching offline hobbies which promote more human connection and aliveness,” says America Offline Founder, David Klein. “Today America Offline is happy to release the 3 approaches and specific strategies to implement right now in order to reduce technology dependency for you and your family.”

The Dark Side of Tech

The average time spent on smartphones AND tablets is 261 minutes a day (4hrs 33mins).3

89% of parents blame themselves and caregivers for the responsibility of a child’s phone use.3

The CDC says one in five children ages 3 through 17 — about 15 million — have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in a given year. But only 20 percent of them get diagnosed or receive care4

A Growing Issue

50% of American teens self report they “feel addicted” to their devices5 and the average teen consumes 9 hours of media per day8; often more time than they spend sleeping9. 

Furthermore, there is now a large body of research demonstrating increasing technology usage is causing a decline in mental health. In 2016, every indicator of poor mental health reached an all time high, with anxiety, depression and suicide rates going through the roof2. 

The Situation Today

Chances are, that if one were to return to the neighborhood they grew up in, they wouldn’t find kids playing in the streets like they used to. Since the iPhone was released in 2007 the amount of time kids spent with friends has plummeted to all time lows. Video games, social media, increasing pressure to perform in school and overbooking our kids with full schedule of activities are all contributing to a world where kids are no longer acting like kids. 

% of kids who get together with friends every day2

America Offline believes that while adults have their own device issues to address, in order to change the world, they must focus on the next generation. 

GameChangers is here to change all that.

Through recent retreats and trainings, Americal Offline has developed a multi-pronged approach to technology mindfulness training that supports the mood and lifestyle of teens, and reframes mindful technology use for everyone.

“Being …with all my new friends and buddies, I definitely enjoyed not having to constantly look at my phone – Alex  14

“…being stress free and having fun outside!” – Jacob 14

“…putting myself in a good position for the day… it made me think more about staying away from technology and being more present with myself. ” – Gabe 14

Enter Tech Wellness

Studies were carried out by University of Pennsylvania.6

As the researchers expected, people who limited their social media use to 30 minutes felt significantly better after the three-week period, reporting reduced depression and loneliness, especially those who came into the study with higher levels of depression. Interestingly, both groups reported less FOMO (fear of missing out) and less anxiety in the end, which the team suggests may just be the result of increased self-monitoring. 

What the Tech Elites are Teaching Their Kids7

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai keeps the TV away from his kids.
  • Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda did not let their kids get cell phones until they turned 14

Mark Cuban, business mogul and co-owner of the Dallas Mavericks, allowed his kids maximum two hours of Netflix, but only after every hour of reading.

  • Tuned-in Silicon Valley parents are now raising kids tech-free and make their nannies sign “no-phone contracts”

3 Things You Can Do Right Now:

Below are a few proactive methods America Offline recommends for creating more tech-life balance, for yourself and your family. 

  1. Improve work (and grades) through meditation and mindfulness experiences

Meditation and mindfulness is proven to increase focus. Increased focus will improve grades and learning retention. While its true that many may struggle to integrate a meditation practice into their lives, there are a variety of mindfulness based techniques which can be implemented in order to promote efficient, deep work. 

Things to try:

  • Take 5 minute breaks every 30 minutes
  • Do a guided meditation together as a family (Insight Timer is a great free app) 
  • Set intentions & bloc time before work sessions
  • Eliminate distractions (airplane mode, disabling notifications, turning off wifi, etc)
  • Try mini resets throughout the day with silence and breathework 
  • Create a mindful morning and evening routine
  • Get outdoors on a weekend digital detox retreat

  1. Improve quality of life through new hobbies, activities and more balance in general

America Offfline acknowledges it is very easy to get stuck in the rat race of life; especially here in America where we tend to focus so much on achievement and high performance, we often forget to take time for things in our lives which make us feel alive. Unfortunately this way of thinking has rubbed off on the youth and teens of today; while it’s great that kids of today are often booked up around the clock with extracurricular activities, the focus on getting straight A’s and participating in various extracurriculars sometimes impedes on kids’ ability to just be a kid – to play pretend and run around outside unsupervised. Finding more balance offers space from work/schooling and can actually improve the quality of work and life in general.

Things to try:

  • Identify a new hobby, skill, class, or activity you had been desiring and block time in your calendar
  • Schedule lunch dates or walks with some friends you need to reconnect with
  • Cancel any meetings, engagements or extracurriculars which are not bringing you joy
  • Make a deal with your spouse or family that everynight an hour before bed we unplug to connect as a family and read, play board games or just talk
  1. Improve connection at home by changing the home environment

America Offline knows that the environment at home and the people we spend time with has the biggest impact on our behavior. We often default to the behavior of those around us. Many parents hoping to limit their children’s screen time are hooked to their devices themselves; if parents want family members to integrate technology in a healthier way, it starts with adults modeling healthier interactions. While America Offline overnight experiences for teens and adults expose their participants to the beauty of being offline, their follow up program and offline family habit builder (GameChangers Plus), is provided to participants as a gamified toolkit to improve offline family connection at home. 

Things to try

  • Facilitate a productive family meeting to create a tech-life balance family contract together where the entire family commits to new tech usage habits
  • Position offline activities like board games and books in main areas of the house
  • Reward the family with a fun event if everyone sticks to the tech-life balance contract 
  • Purchase a communal phone charging station for the entire family to charge their phones together at night and during family time

Get an In-person Healthy Tech Refresher for yourself, a Child, or a Friend

America Offline organizes immersive offline experiences and offers private consultations for parents, families and organizations.  Visit their launch fundraiser today to see the discounted rewards that are available to Thrive supporters. 

References

  1. https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/03/health/teens-cell-phone-addiction-parents/index.html
  2. iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge PhD
  3. https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/smartphone-addiction/
  4. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/major-depression-rise-among-everyone-new-data-shows-n873146
  5. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/news/press-releases/new-report-finds-teens-feel-addicted-to-their-phones-causing-tension-at
  6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/11/16/new-research-shows-just-how-bad-social-media-can-be-for-mental-health/#6cf17f1e7af4
  7. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-silicon-valley-ceos-limit-screen-time-at-home-2019-4#steve-jobs-the-late-ceo-of-apple-limited-the-use-of-his-own-technology-among-his-kids-1
  8. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/census_researchreport.pdf
  9. www.nationwidechildrens.org/specialties/sleep-disorder-center/sleep-in-adolescents

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This content is informational and educational, and it does not replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a health professional. We encourage you to speak with your health-care provider about your individual needsor visit NAMI for more information.

Read more of our mental health coverage here.

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