Technology is positive for many people but it can be bad for your mental health, stress you out or make you feel disconnected from others. How do you use the internet for good?
Psychologists, who are experts in the mind and emotions, recommend these tips to help you live a healthy life online.
1. Build relationships
Psychological research shows real-life social contact gives you the skills you need to use technology in ways that are good for you.Cultivate relationships offline as well as online.
2. Maintain perspective
Seeing the perfect lives of celebrities or friends can make you feel low. But remember these are just heavily edited highlights, designed to show a certain image to the world.People who keep it real on social media are actually less stressed and feel better connected than those who pretend. Your worth is not dependent on your number of likes, so avoid competing and be genuine online.
3. Choose support wisely
People with mental health issues often turn to online groups that reflect their thoughts and moods. Sometimes they withdraw from friends who are having a better time in life.Stay well connected with a range of friends to avoid a downward spiral. If you need help, look to a GP, a mental health professional like a psychologist, a headspace centre or trusted family and friends. You can also connect to a moderated forum like those on the ReachOut website.
4. Check less
“Constant checkers” are people who are always on social media or get notifications pushed to their phone constantly. Psychological research shows they are more stressed and get less done.Turn off constant notifications and limit when you check to certain times of day.
5. Connect with your family
The internet can make friendships stronger, but can create a wedge within families. Losing connection with other generations can be bad for your wellbeing. Switch off the computer and spend time connecting, in person. Really engage with the people around you in the here and now.
6. Switch off to sleep
Screen time is linked with poor sleep. And poor sleep has been linked to problems with physical health, mental health, work and study.Turn off all phones, devices, computers and television an hour or more before going to bed. And remember that face-to-face contact with friends and family has actually been shown to help you sleep better.
7. Choose friends, not bullies
Being trolled or bullied online can be deeply upsetting and hard to ignore. Cyberbullying and other harassment have been shown to harm people’s mental health and wellbeing.Consider reporting, blocking, unfollowing or unfriending any person who repeatedly posts material that offends you. Build an online social network that enriches your life.
8. Be a good citizen
Being on the receiving end of negativity online (or even dishing it out) is bad for you. Studies show that these interactions can leave you with social and emotional issues.Help create a positive environment online. If you witness bullying online, consider responding. Research suggests that ‘bystanders’ who witness bad behaviour can discourage online bullies and actually help the victims.
9. Think big picture
Images can spread like wildfire online.Before sending an image or video to anyone, think about what it would be like if your teacher, mother, or future employer saw this image. If you feel uncomfortable taking and sharing an image of yourself, better not to. It is your right to say no.
10. Break out of your ‘technococoon’
Spending too much time locked away with technology can lead to poorer health and fitness and can be a sign you are avoiding real-life problems.Find a supportive friend, family member or school advisor and start talking about what is troubling you. You can then start to solve the problems causing you stress and engage more fully with life.