The Digital Era
In the last twenty years, technology — and internet connectivity in particular — has become increasingly pervasive in our everyday lives. So much so that the word “ubiquitous” has become a cliched understatement. Now, the internet works wonders, and its potential to improve our lives (and the world itself) appears limitless.
Nonetheless, as has always been the case, there can be too much of a good thing. To put it another way, however “real” our virtual lives appear, it is not quite the real thing — and sometimes methods like the digital detox, as it’s known, can work wonders for our physical and mental wellbeing.
Our Online Habits
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated our already excessive time spent online. Research has indicated that by as early as March 2020, worldwide internet hits had skyrocketed by between 50-70% (half of which was spent on social media), whilst streaming had increased by over 12%.
By July 2021, the former had increased to 60-80%. Across all age groups (children, teenagers, young adults, adults, 65+), negative effects were recorded in physical and mental health, from eye health to sleep routines, and bodily aches to eating habits.
A study conducted by The Harris Poll found that over half of Americans had experienced significant increases in screen time, with the average now being 6.3hrs/day outside of school and work. In addition, 38% reported less physical activity and 21% reported a negative effect on mental wellbeing. It is research such as this — not to mention our lived experience — which has led to a growing interest from parents in digital wellness.
A Helping Hand from Trend Micro
Despite the pitfalls we address in the above section, the majority of people — parents included — agree that digital technology and the internet is primarily a force for good and life-improvement. Check out the latest research from our partners, the ever-brilliant Digital Wellness Lab. Parents do indeed see the positive benefits for their children, not least in education, future work skills, and engagement with the world around them.
However, it’s often the case that parents feel they’re on their own when trying to guide their children through the digital world. They worry about excessive screen time, explicit content, and a general over-reliance on digital technology. That is why Trend Micro has been excited to announce their latest product, Trend Micro Family, a complimentary solution that has linked apps for both parents and the kids — as well as a simple Chrome extension for ease of use.
Its key features include:
- Social Media Checker: An industry-first, Trend Micro Family provides parents a way to optimize security and privacy settings on their children’s social media accounts. Currently supporting Instagram, additional platforms such as TikTok and Facebook will be made available soon.
When was the last time you checked your privacy settings on social media platforms? Often, our default privacy settings are a lot less secure than we realize. Trend Micro
Family will fix this. Upon entering your log-in details, the Social Media Checker will run a quick check and recommend the best security and privacy settings.
Why not give our Social Media Checker a quick look while you’re here? Follow the link to try it out.
- Safe Browsing: A less invasive approach, Trend Micro Family provides a safer online environment by blurring out explicit images in real-time, as well as preventing access to unsuitable sites while blocking unwanted ads.
- Personalized Settings: Families with multiple children can choose settings appropriate for each child.
- Screen Time Summary: Parents can see how their children are interacting with the internet.
- Visibility Reporting: Parents can get a deeper understanding of the interests and worries of their children, with feedback on their online searches.
Another Solution — The Family Digital Detox
A digital detox essentially means unplugging from the digital world for a specific amount of time. For families, there are many benefits, including:
- increased family quality and bonding time,
- better eye and sleep health,
- improved social skills, self-esteem, independence, and creativity
- and increased exercise and tactile experience for children and teenagers (which is crucial for development and engagement with the world around them).
When planning such a thing, it would be a good idea to introduce it gradually, and rather than a strict order, to frame it as a shared experience between parents and children, a new experiment for both sides. On that note, parents: although we at Trend Micro aren’t in the business of giving orders or telling parents how to do their job, bear in mind that it’ll be a lot easier to encourage less screen time in your children — if you’re leading by example!
How and when is up to the family. The options and ideas for a family digital detox are limitless and don’t need to cost a thing. It doesn’t need to be a dramatic cold turkey setup, or even for an extended amount of time. Rather, it’s about forming a positive habit, where you plan a space and time that is internet and tech-free. The following are some ideas to get you started:
- A good first step would be a rule against screen time an hour before bed. It could be every night, or every other. Parents could replace it with story time: some nights parents telling or reading a story, others the children could lead.
- Enacting a ban on phones at the dinner table would be another good light step. If there’s time in busy schedules, have the kids help make fun new dinners and they’ll be more attentive when it comes to sitting down.
- Organize a day out at the weekend and leave the internet behind. The park, the woods, the beach, picnics, bird-watching or swimming: even during Covid-19, we’ve a wealth of convenient day-trips on our doorstep. Though of course, remember to check prevention guidelines in your area before setting out.
- Plan a game or arts & crafts night once a week. Let the kids help pick the games and activity — they’ll be much more enthusiastic if they feel jointly in control.
- If you all progress through the above well enough, how about braving a weekend away without your phones or laptops? You could make a humorous ritual of each family member putting their gadgets into a sealed container.
These are just some ideas we’ve thought of here. Thinking of more, parents and children together, can itself become a fun task!
To summarize, the philosophy behind Trend Micro Family and digital detoxes is not to treat the internet (and screen time) as inherently negative or dangerous, but rather as something that is both positive but also complex. Therefore, it requires guidance and education in how best to use it and how best to curate an environment of digital wellness. Why not combine Trend Micro Family with the family digital detox?
If you’ve found this article an interesting read, have children of your own, or know friends that do, be sure to follow the link and find out more on Trend Micro Family.