DURBAN – As countries around the world take increasingly strict measures to slow the spread of Covid-19, health experts have expressed concern that more people are becoming dependent on digital technology to live their lives.
According to Psychologist Dr Paul Marsden, as more people are engaging in physical distancing and self isolation, more time is spent online to connect, communicate, work, shop, inform and entertain.
“While a more digitally-mediated life may help keep us safe from physical contagion, digital technology has the potential to propagate ‘mental contagion’ as emotions (e.g. fear) thoughts (fake-news, conspiracy theories), and behaviors (online panic buying) spread digitally but virulently through the population,” said Marsden.
Digital and safety platform Qustodio’s recent study on internet behavior since the coronavirus outbreak, found that online activity has been on the rise since the closure of schools and government imposed lockdowns.
“The coronavirus is propelling the whole world into a new era of connectedness. Busy parents, both during and after the crisis, will have to be extra careful not to let screen time take over their children’s lives and make sure they are protected from online predators and harmful content,” said the company.
Dr Marsden provides the following tips for keeping your digital diet healthy during the coronavirus outbreak:
- Use digital to ‘take back control’ – We might feel powerless in the face of a global epidemic, but we can use our digital technology to regain some sense of control and autonomy over our lives. For example, you could consider time-boxing your passive screen-time (streaming, viewing, scrolling), and balancing passive viewing with active interaction, where you – and not the screen – are in control.
- Use digital to nurture relationships – use the viral outbreak as an opportunity to build or rebuild a sense of relatedness, care and affiliation with the people who matter to you and to whom you matter.
- Use digital to be smarter – Use free online fact checking services to counter the viral spread of conspiracy theories, urban legends, unfounded rumours and misinformation. Reduce your information intake to just one or two trustworthy and reputable expert information sources (e.g. WHO, national broadcasters)
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