Published on February 28th, 2017 | from CAMH

Keeping tabs on your technology use

By Dr. Lena Quilty, Independent Scientist, Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, CAMH


Dr. Lena Quilty

Advancements in modern technology have greatly changed the way we live at home, work or school. With the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger, we can connect with family or friends across the globe, access and share information in an instant.

Excessive or uncontrolled technology use can have negative consequences, however, such as decreased productivity at work, relative neglect of other leisure activities and relationship conflict.

With this in mind, it’s important to ask ourselves how we can use our devices in such a way that allows us to take full advantage of the information, mobile apps and cat videos we have at our fingertips, and to minimize these potential harms.

Cognitive behavioural therapy can be a useful approach to managing technology overuse. Here are some helpful tips for tracking and managing your technology use inspired by this effective approach:

Track your use

Monitor the date, time and duration, the nature of the technology use, and relevant outcomes (such as your mood, productivity, conflicts, etc.). Tracking your technology use gives you a baseline to build from, and helps you to identify where that use may be causing more harm than good.

Set goals

There is currently no consensus on the “right” way to incorporate technology into your life in a healthy way – so set a target that seems like the best fit for you, work towards it, and evaluate as you go. You might set goals for when and how long you use electronic devices, or for the types of technology you use. Your tracking can help you to identify priorities or the best place to start to maximize the impact of your efforts.

Be curious, experiment

There are all kinds of strategies available to support you as you change your habits. Consider deleting apps, bookmarks, or other “doorways” to the technology use you wish to reduce or remove. Consider filtering software, frequently used by caregivers to limit access to explicit content for their children. Even simple timers and alarms can be used to remind you to take breaks or to move on to another activity. Use these tools not to avoid technology use but to make healthy decisions that will move you towards your goals easier in any given moment.

Turn roadblocks into sign posts

Pay attention to your own reactions to changes in technology use. Barriers can be valuable sources of information. Do you find yourself bored or overwhelmed or lonely when you’re not looking at a screen? This may be a signal – and an opportunity – to reflect on the function your technology use served for you, and how you might accomplish the same in another, more healthy way. It may be that developing your social circle, your leisure activities, your workplace habits, or your ability to cope with stress, requires your attention.

Final thoughts

Technology plays a central role in many of our lives, and it’s important to find ways to use it to our advantage. Finding a way to ensure technology is the source of more benefits than harms may require some persistence, patience and support from family, friends or health care providers. Tracking use, setting goals, experimenting and paying special attention to how you’re using technology can go a long way to ensuring you’re getting the most out of your relationship with your devices.

Resources and links

February is Psychology Month in Canada. CAMH would like to celebrate the amazing work of all of our psychologists, who make life-saving contributions to the lives of the clients they serve.

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