Last week’s out-of-the-blue lightning storm knocked out several WiFi routers in my neighbourhood and, I must admit, I haven’t been in a particular hurry to replace mine. I have been taking a somewhat sadistic pleasure in watching my kids at a loss for what to do with themselves, before rediscovering all their tactile games and the shelf full of books that’s been gathering cobwebs. Plus, it has been such a pleasure to be able to have actual conversations with these vaguely familiar-looking strangers. Yes their birth certificates say they are my kids, but all I ever saw of them before last week, was the top of their heads, which were permanently buried in their screens. So it has been a mixed blessing to have my router fried the night before the Easter long weekend, which gave me a brilliant excuse for not being able to do anything about it.
But I’m not a complete monster, so I have sympathised as sincerely as my hidden delight would allow and promised that I would sort it out “soon.” But I’m not sure that I want to. I don’t know why it bothers me so much that people, especially teenagers have their heads buried in their phones all the time these days. It seems like they can’t let five minutes pass without having to check their phones. Even if there’s absolutely nothing to look at; no new WhatsApp messages from friends; no new Facebook posts to like; no new Instagram pictures to … whatever it is you supposed to do with them, they still have to check just to be sure. You can take them to THE most exciting cliff hanger show where elephants juggle human beings while walking on a tight rope 100m up in the air … and they will remain surgically attached to those phones. They cross the road and walk in the malls with them, bumping into one another and into shopping trolleys, but check they must. People have actually had serious accidents because they simply cannot tear their eyes away from their screens. It seems if you want you kids to pay attention to what you’re saying these days, then you have to WhatsApp them in the bedroom.
It’s one of the craziest and most irritating side-effects of our digital times. And believe it or not, there’s actually a medical danger that you need to be aware of. It’s called “Tech Neck” and it cautions that our kids could end up with damaged necks and spines as a result of their heads unnaturally and constantly being tilted forward. It sounds preposterous, but it’s a genuine thing that us parents must be aware of. And while you’re online, read about “Digital Detox,” which is becoming more and more of a requirement for us tech junkies these days. A friend of mine just spent time at a resort here in Cape Town where she had no access to any screens for ten days. They woke up early, ate good healthy food, read books, meditated, did yoga, slept, socialised and went to bed early. She says it was very scary and disorientating at first, but then she started to enjoy it. And even looking forward to the days of getting in touch with her own true self. And I hear people are now doing mini detoxes at home, where they will go an entire weekend with no screens going on. After my long weekend of no internet, I think I am going to try and do more of this at home.
You can read more about Tech Neck and how to mitigate the effects, here: https://www.spine-health.com/blog/5-simple-steps-prevent-tech-neck
There are also ways to balance your tech dependence and staying healthy. Read more about that here: https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/8-steps-doing-digital-detox-without-fomo and here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/better/technology/9-ways-to-start-and-stick-to-a-digital-detox/
Bobby Brown – Smile Breakfast Anchor, Weekdays 6am-9am