Do you find yourself constantly reaching for your phone? Unable to resist those late-night social media scrolling sessions? If this sounds familiar, you might be stepping into the new year with the goal of breaking free from digital addiction.
But how exactly can we tackle this challenge? In a world where our phones, laptops, and other digital gadgets serve as indispensable tools for work, socialising, and entertainment, it’s tough to imagine life without them. Yet, the overuse of digital devices can take a real toll on our mental well-being.
So, how do we embark on a digital detox journey? What strategies can we employ to reshape our digital consumption habits?
We’ve gathered insights from our panel of experts who weigh in on the impact of the mobile phone industry, its societal ramifications, and the evolving landscape of digital detox strategies.
Let’s delve into what our panellists have to offer…
Our Panel Of Experts
- Sophie Cress, Mental Health Expert at SexualAlpha
- Dr Charlotte Armitage, Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Founder of No Phones at Home CIC
- Mark Saxby, Co-Founder of Positive Social
- Hector Hughes, Co-Founder of Unplugged
- Ismail Vali, Founder and CEO of Yield Sec
- Sarah McConomy, Chief Operating Officer at SellCell
Sophie Cress, Mental Health Expert at SexualAlpha
“I predict that the future of phone addiction will be challenging and require innovative solutions. As smartphones become increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives, the potential for addiction is likely to grow. The appeal of social media, constant notifications, and immersive apps can contribute to a heightened dependency that can negatively impact mental health.
“I anticipate that personalised digital detox strategies will emerge to counteract this trend. Mental health apps may evolve to not only monitor screen time but also analyse usage patterns and provide tailored interventions. These interventions could include mindfulness exercises, curated content breaks, and even virtual support groups led by mental health professionals.
“Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies may play a significant role in providing immersive digital detox experiences. Users may engage in therapeutic VR environments to step away from the digital world temporarily. Social media platforms may also implement features that promote intentional and mindful usage, such as pop-up reminders encouraging users to take breaks or engage in offline activities.
“Policies and initiatives could be enforced by governments and organisations to combat phone addiction and acknowledge its effect on public health. In order to promote a healthier work-life balance, workplaces may encourage certain hours designated as “screen-free”.
As technology progresses, it will be crucial to strike a balance between utilising innovation for positive mental health results, while also diminishing the potential hazards of excessive screen time.”
Dr Charlotte Armitage, Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Founder of No Phones at Home CIC
“Smart devices have infiltrated our lives to such an extent that they can have a negative impact on our psychological well-being without us even realising it. If you are struggling with your mental health, even if you know what the cause of your distress is, following device detox strategies might be helpful.
“For example, turn your phone onto aeroplane mode overnight, move apps to different folders on your device so they are harder to access, and turn off notifications or better still, leave your device downstairs on an evening. When we wake up to multiple notifications on our phones, it can induce the release of cortisol into the bloodstream, making us feel anxious before we have even left our bed in the morning, which is not a good way to start the day. Worse, if you check the phone in the middle of the night, notifications may disrupt your sleep.
“Creating boundaries so you don’t check your phone until you have completed a morning routine, whatever that may look like, allows you the opportunity to wake up, get ready for the day, and be present with those around you, which can reduce the stress associated with the morning rush.
“When you feel yourself needing to reach for the device, take a few deep breaths and centre yourself on the moment you are in, pay attention to those around you so that you can stay present in the moment.”
Mark Saxby, Co-Founder of Positive Social
“When we go into schools and give students the tricks, tools and most importantly of all, the permission to use social media in a different way, they often jump at the chance. We find that most young people don’t want to be on their phones as long as they are so when we tell them about how doctors have likened our addiction to social media to the addiction experienced by crack cocaine addicts, they immediately make commitments to change their behaviour.
“We ask them all to consider what they’d do on their perfect day and then challenge them: How many of you included going on TikTok or Snapchat during that day? When barely anyone says they did, we challenge them: then why do you let social media ruin your best days?
It’s the students’ commitments that say it all: ‘I’m leaving TikTok because it’s washing my mind’, ‘I’m coming off Instagram because it makes me feel sad.’ ‘I’m going to spend more time with my parents and friends because I recognise they are more important.’
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Hector Hughes, Co-Founder of Unplugged
54% of guests cite burnout and work stress as their key reason to stay at Unplugged
45% mention high screen time, scrolling or social media as a motivator
20% mention wanting to spend quality time with their partner or by themselves.
Global search interest for “digital detox retreat” has increased by 50% in the past year.
Ismail Vali, Founder and CEO of Yield Sec
“It is deeply concerning to see the growing issue of phone addiction, especially as it relates to the predatory tactics employed by illegal gaming operators. Yield Sec’s comprehensive analysis of the UK market has revealed alarming trends that demand immediate attention – and may well provide some answers to combat the problem.
“We have identified that an astounding number of 231 illegal gambling operators are actively targeting individuals in the UK, with over 1,000 affiliates aiding in the promotion of these illicit entities. These operators often utilise strategies designed to exploit and maintain the attention of children and vulnerable players.
“One such tactic is the use of “mystery boxes”, an evolution from the loot crates across video games, which mimic gambling mechanics by offering random rewards – in this case, typically across youth trends like flavoured vapes, designer sneakers, and even crates of energy drinks promoted by popular YouTubers and TikTokkers.
“These boxes entice players with the possibility of obtaining rare and desirable items, thereby encouraging continuous engagement and, in most cases, a deep financial commitment.
“Furthermore, pay-to-play gaming models are increasingly prevalent. These models often dangle the carrot of new game accessories or the ability to trade and change in-game avatars, items and features (“skins”) or financial rewards to keep players hooked. This approach not only fuels addiction but also exposes vulnerable individuals to significant financial risk and potential exploitation.
“It is important to highlight that these illegal operators and the affiliates that promote them are not only engaging in unethical practices but are also violating numerous regulations designed to protect consumers, as well as the terms of service across the tech platforms where audiences congregate. The fact that children and vulnerable individuals are being actively and cynically targeted is particularly distressing and adds fuel to the phone addiction epidemic.
“At Yield Sec, we are committed to addressing this challenge by working closely with regulators, policymakers, and other legal stakeholders. Our goal is to create a safer online environment, free from the predatory practices of illegal operators. We believe that through collective effort and stringent enforcement of existing laws, we can significantly mitigate the risks associated with illegal online gambling, and by proxy – phone addiction.”
Sarah McConomy, Chief Operating Officer at SellCell
“There is no doubt that phone addiction will increase over the next decade as our reliance on smartphone usage continues to increase. With over 33 billion text messages sent daily mobile technology is integral to our lives. Research shows that in all environments people struggle to communicate without their devices.
“Separation anxiety from our phones is a real condition in personal relationships as 1 in 5 women interrupt lovemaking to consult their phones, 80% of adults would rather text (fight by text) with loved ones than meet in person to resolve issues; and even office workers admit to spending up to 4 hours a day playing with their smartphone rather than working. With 40.4% of people upgrading their smartphone every two to three years, smartphone usage will increase yearly.
“Digital overload is a real problem now with people struggling to put down their phones and exist without their safety blanket. The call for digital detoxes will no doubt start to become prevalent in years to come in line with the rise of phone-related anxiety levels in both children and adults. The start of phone-free zones and text-free times in both employment and social circumstances may be necessary to create a more balanced society”