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Switching off for summer

Monday , 19 December 2022 by Nicole Gray

We have the power – balancing our device habits in 2023

Southern Cross is encouraging New Zealanders to “switch off for summer” and go on a digital detox these holidays, as data shows nearly two-thirds of people are concerned about their device use.

New Zealanders, like most other global citizens, love their devices. They do after all, make our lives much easier in many ways, by keeping us connected and offering new ways of working that can help to balance our work and home lives.

Southern Cross’ second biennial Healthy Futures report earlier this year found that while many people recognise these benefits of technology, a significant number also worry they spend too much of their free time on devices, indicating that New Zealanders have a complex relationship with technology.

Seventy-eight per cent of people said technology had brought them closer to distant family and friends (up six per cent on 2020), while 69 per cent said devices had also helped give them a sense of community through social media and connection with others (up seven per cent since 2020).

However, 64 per cent of people also felt they spent too much time on their devices (up seven per cent since 2020) and 45 per cent worried about the impact of that technology time on their health.

More than a third of New Zealanders (37 per cent) said their time online had negatively impacted their real-life relationships.

This concern over technology extended to the rest of the family, too, with 63 per cent of people worried about the impact time spent on devices was having on their children’s health.

These concerns over devices covered physical, psychological, and social impacts.

The Healthy Futures report found 35 per cent of people experienced neck strain due to time spent on devices, while 32 per cent had sore eyes. Twenty-one per cent of people also reported hand strain following device use, with 21 per cent also experiencing headaches.

Social media was cited as having a psychological impact on people, with 37 per cent of people saying social media had a negative effect on how they felt about themselves – up three per cent since 2020.

Dr Stephen Child, Chief Medical Officer of Southern Cross Health Insurance, says the data on technology use highlights the importance of taking a break from devices whenever possible – and summer is a good time to start.

“Technology is a necessary part of our lives these days, especially through the ongoing pandemic, however our latest Healthy Futures report did show many New Zealanders are worried about the impacts of device use on their health,” he says.

“That’s why we’re encouraging New Zealanders to use their summer break to take a step back from their devices over the holidays.

“It might feel easier to go on a digital detox when the pace of life in general slows down, and putting away those devices can have many benefits, including reduction of stress or anxiety, better sleep, and improved relationships.

“Beginning the year with a digital detox will not only give people a break physically and psychologically, but it may also help develop some healthier technology habits to take through the rest of 2023.

“If people need more support to set up healthy habits for the new year, they might find it helpful to use one of the Raise counselling sessions that are included as part of Southern Cross Health Insurance members’ benefits*. Raise can put members in touch with counsellors who can help with all sorts of things, personal or work-related.”

Tips for a digital detox over the holidays (and beyond!)

Mute notifications

Most of the apps on smartphones aren’t essential, so try muting them over the summer holiday break. This helps remove the temptation to unlock your screen and start mindlessly scrolling.

Put devices elsewhere

If the urge to check your phone is still too great, try putting it on airplane or ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode – or simply put it in another room.

Set some rules

Try and reduce your reliance on devices by imposing some technology-free times on yourself, such as mealtimes or when you first wake up in the morning.

Help kids find a healthy balance

Sit down with your children and discuss what healthy screentime behaviour looks like for their age and stage of development. Children are more likely to buy in to screentime rules when they’re involved in some of the decision-making.

Explain to them that it’s good to balance screen time with real life connections and activities and come up with some rules together e.g. no devices on weeknights or after a certain time at night. Be prepared to update these screentime rules as your kids get older and technology changes.


*Subject to change. Terms and conditions (including limits) apply.