5 Things You Can Do When You Put Aside Your Mobile Device

Sep 24, 2020
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5 Things You Can Do When You Put Aside Your Mobile Device

Words by Celeste Goh


Studies have recently shown that the average Malaysian spends more than eight hours a day on the Internet, almost three hours of which is spent on social media platforms, and another same period of time streaming broadcasting shows – that’s more than half of the time when we are awake!

While the Internet has its plus points of keeping one up to date with the latest comings and goings – be it on global current affairs, or the latest gatherings of one’s friends across the globe – many studies have shown over the decades that spending too much time online has negative mental repercussions, leading to anxiety, sleeping disorders, depression, isolation and feelings of guilt. Not to mention, physical ones like headaches, weight gain, carpal tunnel and blurred or strained vision.

Simply put, spending all your time catching up on virtual reality, you will end up missing out on the more important things in real life.

So, without letting another second pass by, let alone another eight hours, here are a few things you can with your time, when you put down your mobile device for a change.

Do your readings through a physical newspaper, magazine or book

While electronic reading was made “cooler”, when Amazon launched its Kindle e-reader at the tail end of November 2007, recent research has suggested that physical reading materials are the healthier option compared to those viewed through the device screen.

Computer Vision Syndrome is a group of eye- and vision-related problems that result from prolonged viewing on digital devices. According to Jeff Taylor, M.D., Medical Director for YourSightMatters.com, this includes blurred vision, headaches, sore eyes, headaches, muscle strain and dry eye.

The expert mentioned: “Normally, we blink about 15 times per minute, but this rate decreases by half when we are staring at our smartphone. As we squint to read these miniature screens, our facial, neck and shoulder muscles tighten, eyes become fatigued and vision can be blurred or strained.”

That being said, digital reading is said to hinder child development as well, particularly the little one’s linguistic development. Researchers have found that children ages 3 to 5 exhibit lower reading comprehension when their parents read to them from an electronic book, compared to those whose parents read traditional books. This is because what education researchers call “dialogic reading” – a back-and-forth discussion of the story and its relation to the child’s life – has been taken away.

Pediatrician Dr Pamela High mentioned during her interview with The New York Times: “There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child. You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”

Spend more time in the great outdoors

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, two nutrients that help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. If a child lacks Vitamin D in his/her system, it can lead to bone deformities such as rickets, a condition that causes bone pain, poor growth and soft, weak bones that can lead to bone deformities. For adults, not enough of Vitamin D in the system will lead to bone pain caused by osteomalacia.

Getting your daily dose of Vitamin D does not cost much as most bodies create vitamin itself from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. Not to mention, being outdoors surrounded by greeneries does counter eyesight deterioration after spending hours looking at your mobile device. The colour green is believed to be the most restful colour tone for the human eye; not only does it improve or reset the strained vision, but it calms you down emotionally.

Kids who are involved in outdoor games are more likely to lead a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle later in their adulthood. They are known to nurture good decision-making abilities, challenge themselves to push their limitations, and become better at risk assessment.

Besides helping improve their gross and motor skills for better agility, outdoor activities like gardening, cycling, swimming and treasure hunting also improve on the child’s social skills. Kids who spend time outdoors and play games with each other tend to interact more effectively with other kids, compared to those holed up indoors and are isolated and withdrawn from other kids their age.

Create bonding time at home with board game nights

If you have gotten your daily dose of Vitamin D, and would prefer to stay in for a change, you may consider rounding up the family members for a few rounds of board and card games. They not only help stimulate the brain in analytical thinking, creativity and problem-solving, they also create bonding time for parents and their children.

There may be plenty of games stored in the iPad to keep the young ones entertained and occupied, but there are many more games off-screen that can do the same, as well as getting the parents involved in play time with their children.

Board games like Snakes ‘n’ Ladders, Monopoly, Othello and Chess are more of a two-way street, as they help parents understand their children’s social skills. On the other hand, puzzles are a good unsupervised activity, during times when adult duties call you away from your kid, as his/her curiosity would keep them engaged with the game. It helps in brain development when it comes to spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination.

When the children are older, parents may engage them in games of Sudoku. Known to arrest the decline of brain function in older people, it challenges the kid to think a few steps ahead of the game. It helps brain development in strategic planning for his/her days to come, and who knows, if you’re real lucky, you might have just nurtured a future chess game genius!

Talk to each other face-to-face

When playtime indoors and outdoors are over, when was the last time you had a proper conversation with the people around you? We don’t mean short grunting answers to yes or no questions through FaceTime, but long, heartfelt, face-to-face conversations.

Surveys have shown that 96.5% of Malaysians go online to communicate by text, whereas 85.6% go online for social media visits, where they are likely to have 1.6 times more friends than the global average. According to the 2013 research study by Common Sense Media, children’s access to mobile devices has increased dramatically than it was two years prior, with ownership of tablets among families with young kids age 8 and under jumping from 8% to 40% – that’s a five-fold increase!

Face-to-face communication remains crucial in this technological age, because understanding “nonverbal social cues” – facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice, and less obvious messages of posture and spatial distance between two or more people – is particularly important for social interaction. In-depth studies have shown that “children who better understand emotional cues in a social environment may develop superior social skills and form more positive peer relationships.”

Interpersonal communication also helps promote effective communication in families: from building relationships between the family members; to increasing trust in the family; to understanding one another on things unsaid – you know how Asian families are, and thus eliminating frustration that may lead to potential issues.

Have an uninterrupted sleep

It is not a new discovery that lack of sleep is bad for you: from daily fatigue and lethargy that lead to moodiness and increased risk of depression; to impaired brain activity when it comes to concentrating and decision making; to weakened immune system that gives way to more frequent colds and infections, as well as more serious health problems, like stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.

Healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best, whereas for three- to five-year-olds need an average of eight to 14 hours of sleep, and six- to 13-year-olds, an average of seven to 12 hours of sleep.

In this digital age, we are more prone to postpone our much needed rest when we are so caught up with what social media has to offer; getting a good night’s rest may seem less important when, at the heat of the moment, you’re down the rabbit hole of funny cat videos you can’t wait to reshare on Facebook and Twitter.

There are 25 million social media users in Malaysia (78% of total population), 24 million of which access the platforms via mobile (74% of total population), many if not all of which we are sure spend time on Youtube, Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram – four of the most active social media platforms in Malaysia, before bedtime.

Experts strongly recommend no screen time for children under the age of two, and less than two hours a day for older children. They also advise to turn off electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime, as the blue light emitted from our mobile screen, especially when viewed in the dark, can decrease levels of melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep, while causing headaches and dizziness when reading on screen.

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