Technology has improved our lives in so many ways. We’re able to connect across continents and learn more about each other. We can store all of our favourite albums and capture moments instantly on our devices. During COVID-19 it has allowed us to still gather virtually and see our family and friends.

But the internet, tablets and smart devices have become such a big part of our lives that we don’t always realize how much of our days we spend staring at a screen.

One study found that the average person spends 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day, with most of that time spent on social networking sites. That adds up to over 100 days a year spent on the internet. This year over 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide and that number is expected to increase to almost 4.41 billion in 2025.

No wonder digital health and wellness has become so important. But is lots of screen time really a problem? Let’s find out.

First of all, what is Digital Health and Wellness?
There are lots of different definitions, but the easiest way to think about ‘digital health and wellness’ is the way technology impacts your emotional and mental health and how to maintain a healthy relationship with it.

Studies have shown a link between using digital technology and mental health issues, especially social media. One study found that ‘social media can be addictive in the same way as substance related addictions.’ This means it causes changes in mood and tolerance and can cause things like withdrawal and relapse.

That’s why we should make sure we have a healthy relationship with technology. There are lots of ways you and your family can improve your digital wellness, and most of them are small things that can make a big difference!

Check Your Screen Time
A great place to start is to take a look at how much time you’re spending looking at that screen. iOS devices have a feature called screen time that allows you to track your screen time across multiple devices – Android devices have a similar feature. This will give you a good overview of your usage and can help you track your progress as you try to improve your digital wellness!

Partner Up
Taking on any challenge is better when you’re not alone! It not only gives you support but also helps to hold you accountable. With a friend or family members, set some goals together for your digital health and wellness. Once you’ve started your journey, set up check-in meetings where you share things like your screen-time reports and talk about the challenges you’ve faced. Digital wellness can be a team effort.

Create Screen-Free Times for You and Your Family
Now that you know how much time you’re spending on your devices, it’s time to create a plan. Make a schedule on your own or with your family that plans out when you’re going to stay away from that screen. Again, modern technology has tools that can help! iOS devices have something called ‘downtime’ that restricts access to apps for a certain amount of time and Android devices have something similar that is geared towards kids, but adults can use it to limit screen time as well.

Turn Off Notifications
Hearing that little beep and seeing that bubble pop up on our screens is exciting, but also very distracting. Take a look at your apps and adjust the settings so that notifications only show up for ones that are essential like text messages or phone calls. With work, you may need to get notifications about emails, but make sure you set it to ‘Do Not Disturb’ after a certain time. This is especially important when you’re heading to bed. The last thing you need is a bunch of ‘dings’ going off as you’re trying to rest and recharge.

Plan Some Activities Without Your Phone
Set up some activities with family where you commit to setting aside your phones. If COVID restrictions permit, go for a walk or hike with the family without posting a ‘grammable’ moment. You don’t necessarily have to leave your phone at home in case there’s an emergency, but make a promise that you won’t check it and will keep notifications off. Or plan a family dinner and commit to put the phones away for the whole meal. These seem like small steps, but they will help with your overall digital wellness and encourage you to live in the moment!

Be Safe
Beyond taking care of your mental health, digital health and wellness can also include making sure you’re being safe with your information online. The stress and hassle of someone accessing your personal information can feel overwhelming and violating and have a huge effect on your mental health. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re safe!

  • Use unique passwords for every account you log into and keep track using a password manager;
  • Use two-factor login authentication when you can;
  • Don’t open any online messages or emails from strangers and don’t click on strange links;
  • Try and avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi;
  • Back up your data as often as you can; and
  • Avoid sharing any personal info with companies or people you don’t know online

Digital health and wellness may be a fairly new term, but it’s catching on! More apps, operating systems and devices are beginning to offer tools to increase wellness for their users. Hopefully, these tips will help you increase your digital health and wellness in 2021.