I’m sure most of you have heard about digital downtime or device-free time. All for the benefit of easing our overloaded brains and nurturing our F2F* or IRL** relationships. I’ve heard of digital detoxes, including resorts specialising in this area (I thought it was just a place with no wifi!) In fact, the digital detox has become a whole industry! However the digital detox has been one-upped by the term digital nutrition.
Here’s a brief overview of the impact of too much screen time before we move on to what digital nutrition really is. There has been a plethora of research in this area but what I found most interesting was from this study by neuroscientists, who kind of did their own form of Survivor by putting 35 people into the desert of Morocco sans device. I wouldn’t have thought you’d get great connection in the desert anyway but I digress….
- changes in body posture looking into people’s eyes improved approachability deeper connections
- improved discussion without google people talk through ideas to find answers
- improved memory recall people weren’t as distracted, so gave more attention
- more efficient sleep less blue light from our screens, which reduces melatonin, the brain chemical that helps us get to sleep
- new perspectives less distractions, more time for reflection decisions about significant life changes
Read more about the study here or here for a participant’s diary of the experience.
The problem with the idea of a detox is with the extremeness of it. Quitting something that is all pervasive in our lives is very difficult. Think of something you’ve tried to give up, a habit like having a coffee every morning. There are so many coffee carts and cafés on campus, everyone around you has a coffee cup, it’s in your face everywhere you turn. Add to this combination what you’re trying to detox from is now pretty much a necessary tool of everyday life, work and personal.
So this is where the idea of digital mindfulness comes from, which is what underlies the concept of digital nutrition.
Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer, recipient of the 2014 Premier’s Teachers Fund Health Education Scholarship conducted a Digital Nutrition study tour of the USA. She explored the host of issues arising from our digital consumption and how technology is markedly changing behaviour, society, and learning.
The idea borrows from the concept of a healthy, balanced diet. Apply this to our digital interactions and think of what is ‘nutritious’ from a social, psychological and cognitive point of view. So what would ‘junk’ be or too much look like? Probably spending all day on social media websites, putting too much value in public commenting like E! News or Reddit, gaming all night long and you’re now wearing adult nappies.
Rather than assigning morals of good and bad to the digital space, Jocelyn it’s complex and nuanced, so has developed three key aspects for Digital Nutrition: Mindful (present and aware), Meaningful (a sense of purpose and clarity in what you’re engaging in) and Moderate (you can regulate your habits so you don’t end up in those adult nappies).
As a non-parent, I’m fascinated by watching my friends kids using technology. They are so adept at it so young! The fireworks when you take it away from them is spectacular to watch (NB. in a non-judgemental way). Some articles I’ve read about such fireworks are pretty interesting:
- Mindcraft turned my child into a monster
- It’s digital heroin: How screens turn kids into junkies
- Confronting my daughter’s addiction. To Snapchat.
- Confessions of a teenage internet addict
So technology and the digital world are not going anywhere but we as educators, parents, and friends can promote a balanced approach, model appropriate use and not be swallowed up into the vortex of searching for the perfect image for a blog post that took me two hours to find. Oh, wait, it’s not about me.
Have you ever battled digital addiction? Can you admit to refreshing your screen to see how many likes your photo on Instagram got, even though you only posted it 30 seconds ago? Share in the comment section below. Go on! You know you want to.
*Face to face **In real life