Do you dare ditch your phone for a day? AUT academic’s challenge

“Do you dare ditch your phone for a day?” asks publicity for “The Phone-Free Day
Global Challenge,” happening this Friday.

Does the thought of turning off your phone fill you with fear?

Do you break out in a sweat thinking about severing ties with social media?

Can’t imagine a night without never-ending newsfeeds?

That’s the pitch from AUT Business School’s Dr Lena Waizenegger – who will lead a wordwide team that will crunch the results from Friday’s experiment.

But beyond the zingers, the academic also wants to raise awareness of the serious workplace and personal problems caused by smartphone addiction – and some easy steps toward a partial digital detox.

As someone who considers a walk to the dairy without his phone “going off the grid”, your correspondent feared Waizenegger’s pitch.

But the AUT academic sees most taking a baby-steps approach, such as leaving their phone on their desk when they go to a meeting, or leaving it behind when they go for dinner with their partner or hang with their friends.

“Use it as a day to reflect on how you use your phone,” she says. (If you want to share your experience, you can sign up here).

She says she’s being realistic, given asking many to go cold turkey for a day would be akin to asking a heavy smoker to suddenly quit for 24 hours.

“Studies have found that people typically spent around 3 hours and 15 mins each day on their phones,” she says.

But although the AUT academic says she’s on the lighter side of that at 1.5 hours, she stresses it’s not so much the amount of time you’re glued to your device, but how you use it.

For example, research by Prof Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine. has found it can take someone up to 23 minutes to regain a state of “high concentration’ at work following a social media goof-off session.

We all get the itch, but, realistically, telling your boss you’ve locked away your phone in the cupboard is not an option.

So what are your practical options? See if your Android phone has a work mode that will disable most apps while you’re in the office, Waizenegger says. iPhone users can limit specific apps via their phones’ Screen Time function

There are also a number of third-party apps for Android and iOS that let you block distracting apps and alerts for at least part of the day.

Waizenegger says Moment, Breakfree, Offtime and Flipd are worth checking out – and not just for your office hours.

She also uses her Android’s digital wellbeing app to focus during exercise time, utilising a workout mode that blocks all apps except for Les Mills On Demand, Spotify and SoundCloud.

Then there’s after hours, when it’s easy for anyone to get caught in any endless scroll through social networks’ bottomless newsfeeds – a feature that’s central to their business model, Waizenegger says. The more you scroll, the more ads they serve.

Waizenegger says this can cause “temporal overload”, stress, depression and even physical cricks like “text neck” from constantly looking down on your phones.

“Digital wellbeing needs to be regarded as the third leg of well-being after physical and

The playground problem

When it comes to kids and smartphones, phone companies, internet service providers and home wireless broadband kits like Google Wifi have family filter options for cutting home internet to certain devices at certain times, and Apple’s Screen Time lets you restrict what apps are used a which time of the day on your children’s phones, if you have a family account.

But Waizenegger says the most important thing is modelling good behaviour.

“If you walk past a playground, a lot of the parents are on their phones rather than engaging with their kids,” she says.

But you’ll have no hope trying to scale back your childrens’ screentime if you can’t set an example by reining in your own.

Try and give it a go this Friday, Waizenegger says.

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