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Do you need to join a digital detox challenge? For many of us, our smartphones have become almost indispensable. According to reports, the average American checks their phones an average of 144 times per day5, and 75% of them feel uncomfortable leaving their phone at home.

While technology makes our lives easier, many consumers have developed a compulsion and, for some, an addiction to their digital devices. While we can't entirely say no to screen time, we can control how much time we spend on our digital devices. With a digital detox challenge, you can regain control and connect with the real world and what is important. Read on to learn more.

Related Read: Negative Impact of Technology on the Environment, Buy Nothing New Challenge.

What is a digital detox? 

person reading book
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

A digital detox involves a period where a person abstains from using tech devices like a smartphone, television, computer, and social media. Most of us spend hours on our devices, going from one activity to another. 

A digital detox is one way to focus more on real-life interactions, like spending time with family members and friends or connecting with nature. As technology continues becoming part and parcel of our lives, the idea of digital detox has become widespread. 

Effects of overusing technology 

According to Statista, the average American spends around eight hours a day with digital media (almost a full-time job!). These extended hours of digital time can impact all areas of a person's well-being. 

So, before we dive into how you can start the digital detox challenge, let's look at some of the effects of spending hours of screen time. 

Increased stress levels 

stressed while using laptop
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash.

We often say that technology comes with many benefits that make life easier. However, research suggests that technology contributes to anxiety. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, a fifth of American adults said that using technology is a source of stress4. The constant need to keep track of notifications like emails, texts, and social media on your digital device can lead to higher stress levels. 

Sleep disruption 

Heavy device use can also affect bedtime. Several studies show that using your smartphone or digital devices before bed can affect how well and how long you sleep.  One study showed that kids who used their phones before bed had significantly less and worse sleep3 than kids who didn't.

Another study showed that people who spend time on social media while in bed increase their chances of having shorter sleep duration1, anxiety, and insomnia.

Mental health concerns

More than anxiety, hours of screen time have also been linked to a higher risk of mental problems, especially among adolescents. According to a study, there was a link between hours spent on technology and increased symptoms of ADHD and disorderly conduct2.

Another study also showed the link between using social media and overall mental well-being. Results showed that limiting digital media use decreased symptoms of loneliness and depression.

Making social comparisons

chronically online
Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash.

If you spend time going through social posts, you may have caught yourself comparing your life to people close to you, celebrities, or just total strangers. As you get a glimpse of what seems to look like perfection, you begin to feel that things are not so great for you. 

Sadly, this is only a disaster waiting to happen. Comparisons steal our happiness and distract us from the progress we are making in our lives. It can also lead to discontentment, pushing people to become dishonest or engage in illegal activities. 

Work/life balance 

Staying connected to your phone for hours can make it difficult to maintain a balance between time at work and time at home. It can be hard to resist the temptation to check your Slack or email even while you're at home with your spouse or kids. 

You may want to text that colleague, reply to that work email, or check your social accounts. This can leave you feeling overworked even while at home or on vacation. 

Signs you should do the digital detox challenge

man busy with devices
Photo by sarah b on Unsplash.

You may notice a few things that indicate you need to stay away from your smartphone or any technological device. Here are some signs you should do the digital detox challenge: 

  • Feeling obliged to check your phone every few minutes.
  • Spending hours looking at your phone every day. 
  • Getting addicted to the internet or social platforms. 
  • Feeling very anxious when you can't find your phone. 
  • Feeling depressed or anxious after you spend time on your socials. 
  • Feeling engrossed with activities like likes, and comments on your social posts. 
  • Staying up late or getting up early to use your phone or device.
  • Not being able to focus on one thing without checking your phone or device. 
  • Being anxious that you will miss out on the world if you don't check your phone. 
  • Losing meaningful offline social interactions. 

How to start your digital detox challenge 

Now we know what a digital detox is and the challenges that come with using technology, how do you start the digital detox challenge? Here’s how you can kick off your digital detox challenge: 

1. Evaluate your current digital habits. 

woman holding phone
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash.

To change your habits, you first want to be aware of your current habits. This will help you create realistic goals and prepare adequately to change your digital habits. First, you want to check your screen time and determine which apps take the most time. 

Next, think about why you may be spending your time on those apps instead of on more fruitful activities. With this understanding, you can reduce your screen time and establish a baseline for progress measurement. You can use third-party tracking tools to check your screen time. 

2. Set realistic goals. 

One of the reasons people may find it difficult to do a digital detox is that they set unrealistic goals. Staying away entirely from your phone or tech device may be liberating and worth the try. But for some, this may be something unrealistic. If you rely on your phone, computer, or any tech device for school, work, or other important activities, staying off your device entirely won't make sense. 

The key to an effective tech detox is to disconnect from it in a way that works for your life and schedule. You can pick a time to stay off your phone after the day ends. You could do this for an hour or more or choose to stay off all digital devices for a day or week. 

Moreover, you can pick one or even three days out of seven days of the week to go device-free. You can also stick to the weekend alone. Another idea you can try is a specific detox. If you play games all too frequently, you can stay off a particular game or app. 

3. Take out distractions.

deleting app
Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash.

One of the easiest ways to remove distractions is to turn off your notifications. Getting that little notification sound can release dopamine, which starts the cycle of constantly checking your phone throughout the day. 

Instead of always checking your cell phone, you turn off notifications and wait for a specific time during the day to check all notifications and catch up on stuff. Next, you want to delete all the time-wasting apps on your phone and make room for other meaningful stuff. If you are going out with family and friends, you can try leaving your phone at home. 

4. Set a limit on technology. 

Setting a limit on technology can help you maintain boundaries to avoid slipping down the rabbit hole. You can set a limit on the hours and type of online connections you respond to. Also set a limit to not use your phone while you eat or dine with other people. 

You can put your phone away when with friends, family, or your kids. Or you can limit usage before going to bed or waking up. The idea is to gain control of the process and make space for other meaningful activities. Limiting digital usage can also improve your sleep quality and overall mental well-being. 

5. Be accountable. 

For many of us, staying consistent with the challenge can get tough after many years of relying on our phones. This is where being accountable is crucial. Let your family members or friends know that you are on a digital detox to get their help and support. You can also team up with someone on the same challenge. 

6. Try out new activities. 

woman enjoying nature
Photo by Riccardo on Pexels.

The digital detox challenge goes beyond staying away from phones and devices. Now that you finally have a free hour or two, you can invest it in trying out other activities you will be proud of. For example, you can exercise every morning or evening. 

You can also sit out in nature and enjoy a moment of inspiration. If you love plants, you can consider gardening. You can also choose to have a fantastic day with your kids or friends. Enjoy every moment, and keep a journal to put down your thoughts and feelings and track your progress.

Final thoughts on the digital detox challenge  

Now, it's your turn to be free! Starting a digital detox can get uncomfortable. You may feel anxious, annoyed, and bored without your device. However, while you may feel this way, the experience is ultimately rewarding. 

You can improve the quality of your mental and physical health, build solid relationships, and experience the world in a whole new dimension. Reread this blog post now and start the challenge!

1

Bhat, S., Pinto-Zipp, G., Upadhyay, H., & Polos, P. (2018). “To Sleep, Perchance to Tweet”: In-bed Electronic Social Media Use and Its Associations With Insomnia, Daytime Sleepiness, Mood, and Sleep Duration in Adults. Sleep Health. 

2

George, M. J., Russell, M. A., Piontak, J. R., & Odgers, C. L. (2017). Concurrent and Subsequent Associations Between Daily Digital Technology Use and High-Risk Adolescents’ Mental Health Symptoms. Child Development. 

3

Fuller, C., Lehman, E., Hicks, S., Novick, MB. (2017) Bedtime Use of Technology and Associated Sleep Problems in Children. Global Pediatric Health.

4

American Psychological Association (2017). Stress in America: Coping with Change. Stress in America™ Survey.

5

Kerai, A. (2023). 2023 Cell Phone Usage Statistics: Mornings Are for Notifications. Reviews.org.

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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