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Why we adults need digital detox more than kids

by Meenakshi Arora
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Mobile addiction- Digital Detox
Besides wellness, digital overconsumption adversely affects parenting patterns. Experts advise reducing digital dependence.
If you are one of those parents who yell and nag at your children for smartphone addiction, it is time to look at yourself in the mirror. From your grandfather to your uncle, from your wife to your sister or brother, everyone seems to be hooked to their devices for instant gratification for one reason or the other. It may be breaking news, stock market updates, short-video pleasures, chatting with college buddies, social media or just streaming content on various OTT platforms, including YouTube. Social disconnection, loneliness, and boredom. These are the top three reasons why more and more adults and senior citizens are turning to digital screens than ever before, leaving them exhausted and, at times, on the verge of developing mental health issues, warn behavioral experts. The relationship between alienation and smartphone addiction in adults and the elderly has rarely been discussed. However, elders who feel alienated have unmet emotional needs and are more likely to seek solace in the virtual world. Therefore, they communicate less with others, leading them to use their smartphones more, resulting in smartphone addiction, according to new studies. Nearly 95 percent of all Internet users are now on various social media platforms. As of October 2023, there were 5.3 billion Internet users worldwide, or 65.7 percent of the global population,  according to Of the internet users, as many as 4.95 billion were social media users.  And another one billion will join social media in the next five years, according to a Statista survey.  One can only imagine how screen addiction is going to affect adults and senior citizens in the months and years to come. Video streaming platforms account for the most internet consumed in the world. The latest ‘Global Internet Phenomena Report’ released by Sandvine revealed that Netflix was responsible for 15 percent of global internet traffic usage in 2022. An average person spends up to eight hours a day on apps which have become an integral part of everyone’s lives.
The digital overconsumption by parents has given rise to distracted parenting which harms children’s social and emotional development. It also correlates with negative parenting practices such as nagging and yelling.

Blame it on the pandemic

‘Internet addiction’ was once a term used to describe youngsters and millennials hooked on watching videos or playing games online. But today, an increasing number of seniors are also falling victim. A recent report from AARP, the advocacy organization for older Americans, found that the tech habits older people developed during the pandemic are enduring. Americans aged 65 and up are using smartphones and tablets more often for reading news and playing games. They are also broadening their social-media use and doing more banking and shopping online. According to Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head of the Department of Mental Health at Max Hospital in New Delhi, there is no such thing as bad technology, but excessive reliance on it and excessive use at the expense of one’s health and life priorities can be harmful.

When parents met screens

Seeing families at dinner with nearly all members looking at their smartphones (yours can also be one such family) is now a common sight and it does not matter if the sighting is in a city, a suburb or a smaller town as digital addiction is all-pervasive. Research published by Virgin Mobile discovered that billions of smartphone users receive 427 percent more messages and notifications than they did a decade ago. They also send 278 percent more texts. Alongside, searches for ‘cell phone addiction’ have also been rising since 2004, according to Google Trends. According to researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada, parents with higher levels of distress engage in more screen-based activities and are more likely to turn to their devices for relaxation. Parents who shout at their kids for their screen addiction must first control their own digital media consumption for relaxation. Such people are more likely to engage in lower-quality parenting, according to researchers. The digital consumption by parents has been correlated with negative parenting practices such as nagging and yelling. Negative parenting behaviors were more likely when technology interrupted family interactions. “It’s not just children who are often on devices. Parents use digital media for many reasons, and these behaviors can impact their children,” said Jasmine Zhang, lead author of the study published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior. On average, parents spend three to four hours a day consuming digital media for relaxation. The Atlantic wrote that dangers of distracted parenting remain underappreciated as per emerging research. Tuned-out parents can harm children’s social and emotional development.
Excessive screen time can cause headaches, disrupted digestive system and circadian patterns and bowel movement, irregular heart function, and shallow breathing. While being engrossed in the screen, we don’t tend to breathe deeply and in rhythm, says holistic health guru Micky Mehta.

Beware of health harm

According to a new report on internet use by China’s elderly produced by mobile content aggregator Qutoutiao, 38.6 percent of people aged 60 or older were internet users, and around 0.2 percent of them spend as much as 10 hours a day online. Health experts warn that phone overuse can worsen cervical spondylosis, age-related wear and tear of the neck, and lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Phone addictions also trigger family disputes. Dr Malhotra tells A Lotus In The Mud that concerns raised as a result of digital overuse include headaches, postural pains, a disrupted sleep-wake schedule, irritability, lethargy, and generalized weakness, as well as impaired concentration and distractibility. According to Dr Mickey Mehta, holistic health and yoga guru, excessive screen time by parents and senior adults can cause 80 percent of energy to exhaust through our eyes. “It can cause prolonged headaches, disrupted digestive system and circadian patterns and bowel movement, irregular heart function, and shallow breathing. While being engrossed in the screen, the body doesn’t tend to breathe deeply and in rhythm,” Dr Mehta tells A Lotus In The Mud. Studies show that subjective cognitive decline, or memory loss, and family relationship conflict affect older adults’ smartphone addiction through a sense of alienation. They feel being alienated from society, nature, and their various relationship networks.

Digital detox: 9 expert tips

digital detox Staring at our devices may be pleasurable in the moment, but “pleasurable behaviors are addictive,” said David Greenfield, PhD, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, as quoted by And they come at a cost. spoke to experts to bring these 9 tips for a healthier relationship with your smartphone.
1. Turn off push notifications
Turn off as many notifications as you can live without.
2. Convert to black and white
Vibrant colors are alluring. Go retro, and activate the grayscale screen filter.
3. Put away your phone during meals
Even if not checking it, simply having the phone on the dining table affects the interaction.
4. Designate tech-free hours
Start by designating a certain time each day that’s tech-free—like while you’re eating lunch.
5. Make your bedroom a no-tech zone
Don’t use the phone for an alarm clock, buy one instead.  Device-free zone invites greater opportunities for intimacy. You will also sleep better.
6. Rediscover paper
Reading a book is more satisfying than reading a tablet, we are more efficient and aware than when reading on a screen.
7. Limit yourself to one screen at a time
Going to another window or looking at a new text message distracts us from the original task, it takes several minutes to recalibrate our brains to get back.
8. Spring clean your social media accounts
We see only a heavily curated version of friends’ and celebrities’ lives, which can be toxic for self-esteem. So be proactive about who and what you follow.
9. Install the blocking apps
The Freedom app lets you block whatever sites distract you on your mobile device or computer. Off-Time on Android allows you to selectively block calls, texts, and notifications. iPhone has “Do Not Disturb” setting.

How to reduce your digital dependence

The family media landscape continues to grow and become more prominent. Going forward, it’s important to consider the nuances of digital media as some behaviors are related to well-being and others are related to distress, according to Dillon Browne, professor of psychology at Waterloo University. To solve the problem of digital addiction, take some simple steps. Go out, take a walk on the grass under the blue sky, and breathe in the fresh air. “Meditate. The light of your device can make you blind while the light coming out from the darkness within during meditation can illuminate your world. Digital detox brings you back to ordinary life, back to normal and simple life, says Dr Mehta. His advice: “When the pace is relaxed, slow and when the mind is not cluttered, it gets a chance to awaken itself and grow. Connect with your own being inside you and grow in your inner world in your inner space.” A parting shot from Dr Malhotra, “Avoid using your phone in the restroom, during meals, and in bed. Try to practice good sleep hygiene. Try to incorporate some hobbies and routines into your life”.  Photos: Freepik,, and   Related:

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