Parents and other adults often complain that younger people are constantly on their devices, scrolling through YouTube videos, messaging in their group chats, or viewing social media notifications. But what isn’t often discussed is the addiction another demographic, the Baby Boomers, has to their smartphones and tablets. Many seniors are just as guilty of spending too much time on their phones in social settings – playing games, checking scores, messaging friends, or reading the news.
According to a recent Washington Post report, many Millenials and Gen Xers are increasingly frustrated with their parents’ constant smartphone use. Although the technology may have been tricky to navigate in the early days, Boomers are off and running with their devices, and in some cases, it can be an obstacle for families trying to spend quality time together. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of Boomers own a smartphone and roughly 6 in 10 are on social media.
As we approach the holiday season, and families and friends are gathering in person once again, it may be time to set some “no phones at the table” boundaries. Many people who live alone have grown accustomed to entertaining themselves on their devices and may need a little subtle re-direction. But rather than being confrontational about smartphone use, a plan for playing games after dinner, taking a family walk to see the lights, or watching a cheesy holiday movie can distract cell phone addicts while helping to create fun family memories.
Often older adults using their smartphones take longer to find what they are looking for, and as a result can wind up going down a rabbit hole of apps, ads and messages. Some of the “news” reports seniors land upon can be from unreliable sites and spread misinformation. Although it can be tricky to navigate, helping seniors pare down their apps to reliable news outlets, and showing them how much screen time they are using may improve the situation. Using the “Do No Disturb” feature may also help keep smartphone enthusiasts more “in the moment”.
A connected smartwatch may also allow older adults to satisfy their FOMO (fear of missing out) with silent notifications they can glance at discreetly without picking up their smartphones and getting sucked in for long periods of time. The latest watches combine fitness tracking, messaging, health and sleep monitoring, and in some models like the Google Pixel Watch or Apple Watch – fall detection.
Ready for a digital detox this holiday season? There are many positive effects of scaling back virtual interactions, including decreased stress, improved relationships, improved mood, and better sleep. Learn more about reducing screen time by following this link to Scripps Wellness and Prevention.