ONLINE TIPS: More and more seniors are going online and more than once day, but do we really need to?
ONLINE TIPS: More and more seniors are going online and more than once day, but do we really need to? Serghei Starus

Beating the effects of the 'online zombie'

DO YOU think you are spending too much time online, or, do you even know how much time you spend connected to the Internet of Things?

Seniors are the newest growing technology user group said Dr Joanne Orlando of the Western Sydney University's school of Technology and Learning. About 65 to 70% of Australians aged 65 and over who are going online more than once a day.

And while going online is gradually becoming a necessity for everyday life activities including connecting with friends and family, support and community groups, it's the amount of time we spend doing it for constructive as opposed to time-using reasons that causes concern.

"Zombie scrolling or zombie checking is when you are not really doing anything," Dr Orlando said. "It's not contributing to your life. You are not really posting anything online, you are just looking for no particular reason because you are bored. It's important you are aware when you are going online and doing something productive."

Avoid being a bystander

Good company can be a lifesaver, but it doesn't always have to be found online. Going zombie is just another way of avoiding real contact with people. Head down, phone in hand, eyes on the screen - there isn't much chance you will get to meet, talk, smile, engage with the people around you. "Social contact is really important for older people who are not necessarily connecting with a lot of people every day," Dr Orlando said.

She also recommends we give our brain a rest from continually being switched on. "It can lead to stress and it can interrupt your sleep if you don't allow yourself time during the day for rest," Dr Orlando added.

You can self-regulate

With the latest Apple operating system, you can look in settings for Screen Time which shows you the numbers around your daily and weekly total time spent in each app and social media used, the usage across categories of apps, how many notifications you receive and how often you they pick up their iPhone or iPad.

Googles's Digital Well-being dashboard for Android users has a similar design while Facebook and Instagram are going through the process of introducing a similar service.

Dr Orlando has a four-step plan to help you management your time online.

Step 1: Map your use

  • Use the screen time features to examine how you use technology during the day, and over a week.
  • Identify the aspect of your use that you want to change. This may be reducing the number of minutes/hours you spend using a particular social media platform or reducing how many times a day you pick up your phone.

Step 2: Identify your triggers

If you want to reduce how many times a day you pick up your phone, then look for the time of day you have most pick-ups or the particular days where your pick up tends to be higher. Look at your high use times and activity they coincide with.

Step 3: Make a plan

  • Consider setting specific times when you will or won't use your device in particular ways.
  • Maybe find other options to avoid boredom such as having a book with you when you're travelling or waiting for family members.
  • A plan is important as it facilitates goal attainment and also increases self-control.

Step 4: Reflect on your plan

After one day or week of using the plan, ask yourself:

  • Did you accomplish your plan?
  • Under what conditions did your plan work best?
  • Were you distracted from your plan and how did get back onto it?
  • Was your plan do-able? For example, a plan to reduce the number of times you picked up your phone from 100 per day to 20 may be too difficult to achieve in a first instance.
  • Do you need to adjust your plan so that it is achievable?

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