The first step toward digital wellbeing is often understanding more about how you interact with technology in the first place. Is it done at a computer and required for work? Is it done on a phone out of habit, for pleasure or boredom? Being aware of these questions and your own feelings when using tech can guide you on the path to finding your own digital wellbeing.
Digital wellbeing is all about using technology with purpose and intention. You should be in control of when and how much you use your device. Many smartphone apps were designed with addictive features. Red notification badges and sounds seek to steal our attention away from other things. Sometimes these other things are work or homework. Sometimes they are people or hobbies. We don't need to accept the default settings on these apps or devices and have the ability to customize them so that they don't dictate to us when they need to be used.
Interacting with screens has repeatedly been shown to release dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a starring role in motivating behavior. It gets released when we take a bite of delicious food, when we have sex, after we exercise, and, importantly, when we have successful social interactions. In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them.
Unless the advertisement-based profit model changes, companies like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat will continue to do everything they can to keep your eyes glued to the screen as often as possible. And by using algorithms to leverage our dopamine-driven reward circuitry, they stack the cards—and our brains—against us.
If adults brains can be tricked like this, imagine the impact on a child's brain. Especially one that is rewiring itself during adolescents.
As mentioned above, there are changes we can make to default app settings to receive fewer notifications. Even Apple and Google are now offering tools to help people us their devices less. Screen time monitoring, shifting to black and white display and setting downtimes are all examples of setting changes we can make to use our phones less.
For further success, delete social media apps and instead access them via a computer or browser on your phone to reduce notifications and temptation. Sign out of social media accounts every time you're done to reduce temptation to quickly check again for new notifications.
Control your environment by establishing screen free zones, such as mealtimes and set up a central charging station outside of the bedroom to dock your phone overnight. Buy an alarm clock if need be.
Above all, mindful use of the technology is the best tool you have for digital wellbeing. So the next time you pick up your phone to check Facebook, you might ask yourself, “Is this really worth my time?”
Another component of digital wellbeing is the impact technology has on your relationships. For parents, the relationship with their kid and their kid's relationship with technology can be a major pain point. The best way to stay sane and have a stronger relationship with your kid is to create an agreement with technology usage rules that everyone will follow. Key components are establishing expectations for kids privacy or lack thereof; screen free times and places (see above) and consequences for not using technology responsibly.
Digital wellbeing is a popular topic given the importance to happiness. This topic focuses on intentional technology usage and screentime. It's related to the mental health topic, but deserves it's own category because it has different solutions