Hardwired and Hijacked

May 14, 2021

How the Global Pandemic Wreaked Havoc on Tech-Minded Families

Pre-pandemic, 2019. News headlines swarmed with warnings about excessive screen time. For adults, experts claimed tech and the way we use it was likely responsible for our poor sleep, our cranky necks, and our inability to focus. For children, though, adolescents and teens especially, the implications were far greater. Research claimed that excessive screen time in children showed a marked correlation to the rise in stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide, and, for a time, the world listened.  

The term, Digital Detox, went viral. Bloggers, authors, journalists, and experts alike took measures into their own hands with a vow of tech silence. They raved about the benefits of going dark and helped give birth to a mindfulness revolution. Change was on the horizon. Then, the Pandemic hit.

If life is like a box of chocolates, then the Global Pandemic of 2020 was like being inside a remote island chocolate factory during hurricane season. Instead of going to hell in a hand basket, though, life went virtual: Virtual meetings, school, piano, church, book club, happy hour— even virtual doctor visits. Overnight, it seemed, the world moved indoors and online, leaving individuals to feel isolated and tech-minded parents to worry.

2021. It will be some time before we know the true implication the pandemic and associated isolation will have on adult and children’s mental health, but we’ve long since known the negative implications of excessive screen time. While the news is not all bad—some screen time is better than others—science dating back to 2016 is conclusive: EXCESSIVE SCREEN TIME IS NOT GOOD FOR US OR OUR CHILDREN. The ship was sinking, though, and we all did the best we could. So, now what?

Speaking of ships, for those who have taken an all-inclusive cruise, you know the tingling excitement of those first few days: the bar, the buffet, the free-flowing soft serve. You also know the gut-burning sensations and fatigue seven straight days of indulgence can induce. I propose this is where we are now. The Pandemic ship has docked, and it is time for us to disembark and get back on the moderation wagon. And, while a full-blown detox may be the solution for some, I believe a digital detox is a short-term solution for an on-going problem. (You can read more about that here.) Rather, I agree with dietitians: Lifestyle modifications, including portion control and moderation, is the key to long-term success. Pertaining to screens, here is some food for thought:

  • Cut your calories.  Plain and simple, we need to limit the time we spend on our phones. You can read more about how to do so in my book, Hung Up; Why You Should Put the Phone Down, or visit www.TheBigHangUp.com to take the Big Hang-Up 7-Day Challenge.
  • Cut your carbs.  Social media is like pasta. Tasty, but best consumed in small portions.
  • Put something green on your plate.  While a plate of carbs is not the answer, neither is a day spent staring at a screen. If your child spends most of their day online, eliminate or limit the time they spend passively scrolling the Internet, YouTube, TikTok, or other social media in the afternoons and send them outside.

To read more about how smartphone/screen addiction is affecting our children and us, check out Hung Up; Why You Should Put the Phone Down on Amazon. The book is short and funny—like Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants—and includes a step-by-step guide for how we can better manage our phone habits.

Written by

Haley Evans

Haley Evans is a working mom of three who is fed up with the smartphone ruling her life. Her new book, Hung Up: Why You Should Put the Phone Down (and Other Life Advice) offers tips and tools to combat cell phone addiction without resorting to drastic “digital detox” methods. Learn more and sign Haley’s petition to Apple for a Personal “Do Not Disturb” option at www.TheBigHangUp.com.