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What is a Digital Detox? And 6 Steps To Make It Happen

Do you feel a spike of anxiety every time your phone pings?

Can you remember the last time you did a family activity like going on a hike or going to the zoo without bringing your phone?

Do you feel like your kids are on their devices too much, but you feel like you have the same exact bad habits?

If you said yes to any of the above, it’s most likely time for a digital detox.

If we as parents are going to tell our kids not to be on their devices too much, to spend less time playing video games and more time being active, then it’s time to step up our game as role models. 

A myth surrounding digital dependency is that many kids are “addicted” to their phones or computers. However, DR. Jennifer Shapka of the University of British Columbia states that in many cases, kids and adults are experiencing FOMO. The “Fear of Missing Out” is described as:

“Fear that others elsewhere are having more fun, or that you are missing out on a rewarding experience. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, envy, insecurity, and loneliness.” 

This is something felt daily by teens trying to keep up with their friends, classmates, and social icons. Teens are worried they might miss a snap, text, or DM, or they need to post a photo of them living their best life. Adults need to lead by example, i.e. showing that it’s not necessary to be connected 24/7 in order to live life to its fullest. And this can be difficult for teens to grasp when a high follower count of game streak is seen as social currency.

Parents, it’s your turn to turn off the phone, resist the TV, and take a step back. Taking a digital detox, or at least adopting a few of the following mindful steps, can then be a healthy step forward for you and your family.

#1 – Get An Old-Fashioned Alarm Clockparents digital detox phones

How many of us have fallen asleep with our phones in our hands? Possibly waking up in a panic because we can’t find it, and it’s stuck deep in the sheets? Buy an alarm clock. Cell phones are not cuddly teddy bears, yet some people sleep with them – in their beds, some in their hands!

While yes, phones are necessary for safety purposes, they don’t need to serve as your alarm clock or radio. A positive detox step is to keep your phone on Do Not Disturb (Night Shift) for the night, say 10pm to 5am. This means the phone doesn’t function as your alarm, and it only allows calls from your emergency contacts.

Give yourself some extra time in the morning to go on a walk, do some light yoga, drink a cup of coffee or tea, even read an old-fashioned newspaper! Start the day on your own terms, without worrying about the latest notification.

#2 – Remove Unnecessary Apps

You know that feeling when you finish your annual spring cleaning? Imagine that feeling when you declutter your phone!

It happens without you even trying. Apps get downloaded, and then they sit on your home screen doing nothing other than cluttering up your phone. 

If you haven’t opened an app lately, delete it. I like to use the clothes rule: if you haven’t worn it in 6 months or a year (for winter clothes), you probably don’t need it in your closet.

Your heightened emotional being will thank you as well as your phone. Your device will most likely work faster and have more storage. If you find yourself truly needing an app, it’s super simple to redownload! 

#3 – Control Your Notifications

Download any number of apps and your push notifications become a constant, annoying mess of beeps, tones, and jingles. You do not need to find out about an online store sale and view someone’s random Instagram post at 3am. Sleeping is far more enjoyable and healthy.

Fortunately, you can control the noise! While there is no quick-fix to turn off all notifications on your phone in one swipe, it will be worth the 10-minutes worth of work. Whether you have iOS or Android, you have to visit your Settings, then go app-by-app to turn them off. You’ll be surprised by how many types of notifications developers actually create.

#4 – Phone-Free Dinners

Who remembers sitting around the dinner table without a single phone present (besides the one landline hanging in the kitchen)? It’s a rare sight nowadays.

When I’m out to dinner and I see a family around a table, all on their devices and not talking with each other, it kind of makes me sad. This has been a big thing with my family, to not have our devices out at the dinner table both at home and out at a restaurant.

Why not negotiate this? Talk it out and make a deal, one that everyone can live with, when it comes to a digital free dinner. Maybe let everyone check their devices until the server comes to the table to take orders, but after that, all phones are put away so dining together will be a more sociable occasion. 

Try a phone basket or phone stacking! Everyone puts the device in the middle of the table, and the first person who picks up their device has to pick up the check, clear the table, etc.

#5 – Use Airplane Mode 

Here’s a great tip for those easily distracted by their phone at work! For example, if you have a task that you need to be focused on, notifications and alerts can be disruptive and simply unproductive. By turning on Airplane mode, you save battery life, can still listen to downloaded music or podcasts, increase focus, and reduce overall stress from constant communications. 

#6 – Practice Mindfulness

parents digital detox

Yes, it’s a trendy word, but for good reason. Mindfulness is an age-old art with many documented benefits. You may hear people say, “Savor the moment” or “Be present in your present,” but those are often easier said than done in the modern world. Mind Because sometimes we need to disconnect to reconnect with what is important in life. In this busy, hyper-connected world we live in, it’s all too easy to lose ourselves in autopilot for much of the day or even every day.

By giving ourselves permission to unplug from the noisy planet, the social swirl, or the digital daze, we can reevaluate our path, take stock in life, strengthen our relationships, and move forward with a sense of purpose and belonging. Deciding on a digital detox, mapping and practicing mindfulness can only be a good thing, but it’s your decision. 

Find More Parent Resources

As a parent, you can make a significant impact on your family’s digital usage. Find more information on creating a positive technology balance and developing healthy media habits with helpful resources.

Get more information at Digital Detox 101.