Before the COVID crisis, I was invited to speak at a seminar and workshop on digital wellness and the techniques for digital wellbeing. It was at a time when no individual would have even remotely forecasted the COVID crisis that was to unfold on humanity.
I cannot help but look back and feel ridiculous about my own speech that day. As was expected by the organisers and the audience too, I talked about how we are dependent on gadgets and the internet, and how indispensable has the smartphone become with the digital convergence of work-related applications, entertainment, staying in touch, and socialising too.
I talked about how all this was eating into the precious time with the family and friends, and the feeling of a lack of privacy— at times, each person will want their own space and time to think, ideate, be more creative, plan for the future, etc. Ironically, the first thing I did after the event was to reach out to my smartphone to check my emails and messages!
Well, try not doing that and the anxiety levels inside you start to build up. In case you forget to charge your phone, and when you are on the road it gets switched off, even your family and friends would be anxious, as they believe that you will always be reachable over your smartphone through calls, text messages, WhatsApp, or email.
Unless, of course, we have always been disciplined about at what times we will be available, and at what times we will switch off, this anxiety in others cannot be warded-off. It was a distinct possibility that we could do it during the pre-Covid era. For some, it was more of an addiction: the many hours of unnecessary usage of smartphones and being online always. One couldn’t even sleep without the smartphone next to oneself.
All this was attributable to our poor habits and an ill-disciplined lifestyle. Truly, that is what it was. And most of us were knowingly indulging in it.
Most children too would have smartphones that they would bring with them to the school and the classrooms. And it was a potentially big distraction unless they were asked strictly to keep their devices switched off when they were in the school.
Children tend to become habituated or hooked to their smartphones if their parents are also doing that. Digital wellbeing is also about digital behaviour and discipline. The parents and other elders at home should set an example of being disciplined about using digital devices.
It is tougher to implement this discipline during these peak times of COVID, and particularly when we have been in lockdowns. Parents are working from home, and children are learning online. Hence it is that much more digital, screen time.
However, I believe this is possibly the best time to analyse and dissect our digital and online habits. Separate the ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ gradually, and move into a more disciplined usage.
Privacy issues also crop up while using smart devices. While each one of us would like absolute privacy in our usage of the smartphones, the dilemma would be about knowing about our children’s internet and digital behaviour. If we should, until what age, and how?
School leadership and engagement with parents to discuss digital safety issues should happen regularly to bring more awareness and caution about the newer threats that keep cropping up.
Like everything else we do in our lives for which we plan, we should also have a plan for our digital wellbeing.