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How to Avoid Tech Addiction

A guest piece by Natasha Devon

(with some useful tips for using tech in a well-managed way this half term)

If you don't know of Natasha she is a one woman powerhouse. A writer, broadcaster and activist she founded the Mental Health Media Charter and she tours schools, universities as well as the world to deliver talks and research mental health, body image, gender and equality. She writes for us today about Tech Addiction, how to diagnose it and how to treat it. If you are interested to know more about her at the end of the article there are ways to get in touch as well as details of some of her books. Our thanks go to Natasha for taking the time to write this important piece for us and to Jo Hardacre at Macmillan Children's Books for making it possible.

Technology is incredibly addictive. The apps and games we access via smart phones, consoles and tablets are designed to steal as much of our time as possible. Why? Well, the short answer is that the more time we spend online the more of our information can be harvested. Our data is worth a lot of money to businesses and other organisations. That’s how the makers of tech that is free for us to use can generate billions of pounds in profit.

Using technology also can be, like most addictive activities, really fun. There’s nothing inherently wrong with gaming, or scrolling, or creating your own content. In fact, these can be creative, meaningful and stress-relieving ways to spend your time.

The key is being able to self-moderate, so that you decide how much time you spend interacting online. Otherwise, the technology will decide for you.

Here are three simple tips to help you put boundaries in place:

1.     Switch off home screen notifications.

 When we get a notification on the screen of our phone, no matter how unimportant it is, our instinct is to jump on it immediately. We get a little jolt of excitement when we see the alert and can even feel guilty if we don’t click on it. Ultimately, that means our phone is telling us when to check it. Our phone becomes the boss of us, when it should be the other way around.


It might be that you have to leave certain notifications on (for example whatsapp, if there is someone who messages you to check you are safe and will worry if you don’t respond) but for most apps you should disable notifications in the settings.


2.     Create alerts to remind you how much time has passed.

When we are enjoying or focussing on something intently, we lose track of time. That’s why you can sit down to a video game with the goal of playing for half an hour and two hours seem to go by in a blink. Potentially, you then have less time to do other important things like homework, fresh air and exercise or spending time with family. To prevent this from happening, set an alarm on your phone or another device for the amount of time you want to spend scrolling or playing.


When the alarm goes off, you’ll want to continue playing or scrolling. At first, stopping will be incredibly difficult - like getting out of bed on a really cold day. But bear in mind it takes about two weeks to start forming new habits and building new pathways in the brain so we can change our habits long term. After a fortnight, it gets easier.


3.     Set a digital sunset.

Good quality sleep is absolutely essential. Not just for our mental health, but also for our ability to focus, concentrate, remember and problem solve. Sleep deprivation won’t just affect how you feel and behave, it can also have a negative impact on your grades.


One way to maximise the chances of getting a good night sleep is to introduce a digital sunset to your routine. About an hour before you want to go to sleep, reduce your contact with tech. This means stopping gaming and coming off social media (both of these activities stimulate the brain and make it harder to drift off). Switch tablets to night mode (which takes away the blue light on screens, turning everything sepia) and put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ to prevent messages and alerts.


Then, spend that hour doing something relaxing. It could be reading. It could be listening to music, taking a bath, doing some gentle exercise or practising meditation. Anything that allows you to wind down and stop the ‘washing machine worries’ (the thoughts that loop round and round and prevent sleep) when your head hits the pillow.

Instagram: @_natashadevon

Books include:


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