What do I know?
• My work on human psychology/brain – 20+ years
• My expertise comes from wide research and deep knowledge, not
opinion or personal experience
• But I am also a heavy user of tech – possibly a bit addicted…
• Here are some of my books – factual and fiction
“Young people – ALWAYS on their phones!”
This comment annoys me!
Many people of all ages spend
too much time on their devices.
Besides, what does “on our phone” mean?
• Think of some things people do on their phones and then click to the
Finding a fact
Making a list
of things to do
Making a note
Then there are the pointless headlines
Discuss the headlines that follow.
Why do you think I say they are “pointless”?
Adults need to recognise the positives
Can you think of any before you click to the next slide?
The Teenage Guide to Life Online discusses positives
in great detail – you might be surprised at what I found!
Some of the positives of our devices
Understanding other people
We need to know the genuine negatives
I’m going to discuss four of them
1. It’s very easy to become addicted
(In my talks, I’ll explain how this
happens in our brains)
THREE things our brains are
programmed to be:
Humans need connections and
support for survival and success.
We don’t do so well on our own
(even those of us who LOVE being
alone.) You don’t have to like big
groups but you need people to
turn to when you want. Not having
people to turn to harms mental
health and success.
SO, we are wired to make
connections and we get a buzz
when we do.
Being curious makes us more successful. We build
brain connections when we learn new things.
When my daughter and a friend were “curious”
as to what would happen if they crowd-funded
and created a short film, they won a BAFTA for
Best British Short Film!
Being curious is good for our success.
SO, we are wired to be curious
and we get a buzz when we are.
We need to be distractible, for our survival.
If the hunters or gatherers were so focused
on their prey or berries that they didn’t
notice the lion or snake moving in the grass,
they’d be dead.
SO, we are wired to be distracted
(especially by moving things) and we get a
buzz when we are.
Our devices give us endless opportunities to
be social, curious, distracted,
triggering brain’s reward system every time
• That “reward” is what can be addictive – in all the things you can think of that
people can be addicted to. (But each addictive thing is different: some are worse
than others. Screens are not the worst.)
Think about your phone/tablet/screen
I’m going to ask you some questions. When I say “screen” or device” I
mean ANY device you use to go online, play games or message people.
How to score:
0 for “Never or rarely”
1 for “Sometimes”
2 for “Often”
1. Stay on screen longer than you planned to?
2. Rush your work so you can go on screen? (Or have to rush because you
spent too long on screen.)
3. Check your messages before something you ought to be doing?
4. Snap/act annoyed if someone tries to interrupt your screen time?
5. Check your phone last thing before sleep? (Or sleep with it on.)
0 = never/rarely 1 = sometimes 2 = Often
6. Try but fail to cut down your screen time?
7. Feel cross with yourself or guilty about how much time you spend on
8. Go to sleep later than you should, because of your screen use?
9. Be late or almost late for things because you were on your screen
10. Check your phone as soon as you wake up?
Add your score.
Your overall score is not the only point, but:
0-4 – Well done! But did you score “2” for anything? If so, think about
whether you ought to change this habit.
5-10 – A fairly high score. All “2” answers require thought and action.
10+ – Real signs of dependency. Your habits are likely to affect
performance and well-being!
“Imagine a sweetshop”
• (In my talks, I explain how this analogy builds
on our understanding of addiction to suggest
good strategies for living healthily online)
2. Poor concentration
This is the 2nd possible problem with screens
Lots of research shows:
• (In my talks I discuss what the research shows about distraction of
• Screens give lots of opportunities to be distracted… (Discuss this)
3. Self-esteem and mental health
Research shows (and I discuss this in the talks I do):
• Using social media a bit can be good for mental health
• Using it too much can be bad for mental health
Problems come from (explained in detail in my talks):
• Everybody else’s “perfect” lives and photos
• “Online disinhibition effect” – phrase coined by John Suler
• Need for “likes” and affirmation
• Anxiety is raised by bad news stories: “bad maths”
4. Some healthy things we’re doing less
I think this is almost the most important problem.
Before going to the next slide, what healthy things do you think
research shows we do less of these days compared to ten years ago?
There are five things but you might be able to think of more.
4. Some healthy things we’re doing less
• Physical activity / going outside
• Reading books / reading for pleasure
• Face-to-face interaction
• Nothing – mind-wandering / day-dreaming
(My website has lots of info about why these things are important)
Other possible problems (research discussed in my talks)
Research suggests (though not proven):
• Weaker conversation skills – we have to learn good conversation skills
and if we’re doing it less we may not be so good at it
• Shallower conversations when it matters – it seems that when phones
are present, we don’t talk about deep stuff
• Lower empathy? There’s some evidence that empathy levels have
dropped in the last 20 years but we don’t know this is because of
• Misunderstandings – it’s so easy to misunderstand people when we
can’t see their faces or hear their voices! Has this happened to you?
We all need to take back control
We do this first by
issues – and now
The Teenage Guide to Life Online
has lots of tips
and Positively Teenage
has some, too.
But here are my five TOP TIPS
TOP TIP 1:
When we want to do our best work,
put phone/social media completely out of sight.
TOP TIP 2:
Forget the statistics and theories:
if being online is making you feel bad,
switch off and do something else.
Balance your life: have plenty of time OFF-line
TOP TIP 3:
Remind yourself (often) that what you see online
is not the whole reality.
Look around you, at the real people you know.
They are reality.
TOP TIP 4:
Make lots of time for:
Reading for pleasure and other hobbies
Thinking and dreaming
TOP TIP 5:
Let’s do this together:
SUPPORT YOUR FRIENDS and FAMILY.
When we’re trying to break habits,
teaming up with others and
creating good guidelines for us all is really helpful.
Consider family or group digital detox
and switch-off screen times.
Three times when phones should be OFF
1. At meal times with friends or family
2. 1.5 hours before bed (and until morning)
3. When someone wants to talk to us
Thank you for listening – now,
switch off your screen and go and
do something else!