Due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people around the globe are quarantined in their homes and are surfing the internet more than ever. Perhaps as a way to address loneliness and boredom, many of us are spending more time on the internet and are getting hooked to it.
According to one survey, 75% of Indian users are allocating more time on social media during the pandemic. An extreme increase of four hours per day, which is 87% higher than pre-pandemic days.
For such a vast population, digital media has become their only means to pass time, connect, and socialise with their family and friends. As every coin has two sides, excessive use of the internet is also related to various physical and mental health hazards.
Many researchers found that excessive internet use is associated with spinal disorders, visual impairments, sleep disorders, obesity, aggression, cognitive decline, multiple mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and stress.
According to UNICEF, one-third of internet users are adolescents and are at increased risk of internet addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic, as their lives move virtually online due to the lockdown. A survey carried out in Japan revealed that 71% of the high school and 72% of junior school adolescents acknowledged that their consumption of internet has increased during the lockdown.
Unstructured use of the internet can make them more vulnerable to gaming addiction, sexual exploitation, bullying, and internet addiction. Not all children are aware of the risks involved in online platforms and don’t have the required skills and knowledge to safeguard themselves. To prevent it, parents and children can work together construct rules for when, where, and how to use the internet. The most important thing is that parents should also practise what they preach.
Now, the big question is, how can we limit our use? By following some simple techniques like, turning off notifications that might be unnecessary, disconnecting for short periods, and practising self-discipline can help to unplug ourselves from the internet.
Make sure to have meal times free of technology. One can also follow the ‘last check method’ which means not using your mobile and internet 60 minutes before and after bedtime. This can also help in improving your circadian rhythm.
It can also be helpful to use of several apps which keep an eye on your web consumption and warn you for crossing your daily limits. Try replacing internet use with healthy activities like exercising, reading, or doing that one thing for which you never had enough time. Develop a new hobby or reactivate an old one. Utilise this time in doing things that make you and your family learn and laugh.
COVID-19 shall pass, but being glued to our gadgets may disrupt our post-pandemic lives by making us addicted to the internet. All of us need to re-evaluate our relationship with our gadgets for healthy mental and physical well-being. So, be a smart user of technology to benefit from it constructively and productively.
Vitasta Dhawan is a research scholar in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Punjab Agricultural University. You can connect with her on Twitter @vd_vitasta