Is it Time for a Digital Detox

Is it Time for a Digital Detox

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Philippa Gold

Digital detox is one of the newest recovery trends. It offers individuals the chance to break their addictions to technology, screens, and work-related electronic items. Digital detox centers, retreats, and programs are popping up all over the world as more people find it necessary to escape technology.


The idea of a digital detox is simple and occurs when an individual gives up their digital equipment for a period of time. Rather than use digital devices, individuals spend their time doing wellness and social activities. It is a chance to recharge the batteries and become one with oneself again. Digital detoxes allow people to end stress, relieve anxiety, and overcome a dependency on devices including mobile phones, computers, tablets, and televisions.


During a digital detox, a person will refrain from using electronic devices. The detox could be completed at home by an individual or at a retreat. Regardless of the place in which the detox occurs, the aim is for the individual to get away from the stresses caused by digital technology devices.


A digital detox is often done by an individual to avoid being addicted to an electronic device. However, many times a person may already be completely dependent on electronic devices due to work or school. The obsession they have created by the device can be mentally taxing. Therefore, the detox enables a person to relax their mind and reconnect with the world offline. During a digital detox, a person may be able to develop healthy habits that build a strong balance between electronic items and the real world.


Why do people need a digital detox?


More than ever before, individuals are reliant on technological devices to complete their jobs. Computers, smartphones, and other items have become commonplace in work environments. However, electronic devices have also become used to help people relax. Millions of individuals are wired to their smartphones during the day and spend much of their free time plugged into apps, social media and other aspects of electronic devices.


The influx of digital devices makes it difficult not to use electronic items. Unfortunately, millions of people are unable to put down their electronic products and live without them1 A smartphone has become the most common item a person looks at first thing in the morning and the last thing they before falling asleep. With so many people dependent on electronics, a digital detox is needed to keep people balanced.


Technology has made life easier for the world’s population but at the same time, it continues to have a negative impact on lives. Social media is one example of technology that has a negative effect on people. While it can keep a person connected, it also leads to distractions and consumes individuals who must always be plugged into Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.


Why is a digital detox important?


Individuals may ask themselves why a digital detox is important? Those who use electronic devices for their daily work may not believe a digital detox is possible or needed. However, the rise in technology has led millions of people to take their work with them like never before. There was a time when a person left their job at the office and was out of contact with work. Now, technology has made it possible for individuals to receive work emails throughout the night or on weekends. Regardless of the job, it is difficult to disconnect and get away due to technology keeping them connected.


Digital detox is also important for teens and students who spend a lot of their free time on their phones Digital addiction can happen to anyone and those from younger generations who grew up with advanced modern technology may not think dependency on electronic goods is a bad thing.


People can be addicted to far more than just a smartphone. Tablets, laptops, and television are three of the main devices that can cause addiction.2 However, videogames and video streaming services such as Netflix can also lead to digital dependency. The ability to mainline television shows one after another may lead to individuals sitting in front of a screen for hour up on hour.


Digital detox for children


Its well documented through recent studies that Smartphone addiction is similar to game and social media addiction in that it triggers the reward centers in the brain, to much the same extent as stimulant drugs such as cocaine. Every once in a while the user receives some sort of unpredictable reward. This may take the form of a message, a like, a notification, or anything else which is pleasurable to receive, triggering the dopamine controlling the pleasure centers in the brain. In children the addictive effects of this reward center have been proven to manifest with stronger effect than adults.3


It is unsurprising that many creators of these technologies heavily restrict their usage by their own children and families. As early as 2011 Steve Jobs was “limiting how much technology our kids use at home” and Bill Gates didn’t let his children have devices until they were 14.


Digital detox retreats


Digital addiction is officially recognized in DSM 5, under a more broad diagnosis of internet addiction. However, the symptoms and presentation of digital addiction or device addiction are more prevalent than Internet or Internet gaming addiction. Many individuals hooked on their devices could never be described as having gaming disorder.


Residential rehabs have begun to offer digital detox retreats, with the most successful at Villa Paradiso in Marbella where, with a 24/7 team of clinical experts client families learn to reconnect.


What are the benefits of a digital detox?


A digital detox doesn’t have to be extreme in which a person relocates to a desert island for a weekend. Digital detox retreats and centers can differ greatly. There are some that make attendees surrender their smartphones and devices upon arrival. Meanwhile, there are others that are not quite as strict and simply influence people to do physical activity and communicate with others in attendance. Due to the variety of digital detox programs popping up, there is certainly something for everyone.4 Benefits of a digital detox include:


  • Calm and content – A break from technology can lead to less stress. This may be due to individuals no longer being connected to work and feeling like they are still at the office. Stress can be caused by thinking about work 24/7 and never truly disconnecting.
  • Increased productivity – By not spending every other minute scrolling through social media, digital detox attendees find themselves to have increased productivity.5
  • Stronger/healthier relationships – Smartphones and social media can turn off the communication a person has with loved ones and friends. Putting down the phone can lead to improved communication and stronger bonds being built.
  • Improved physical health – This is perhaps the biggest benefit of a digital detox. Being less dependent on technology allows a person to focus on their well-being. Individuals may now be able to get more exercise and less stress is good for mental health.
  • Better sleep – Screen time prior to bed tricks the mind and it is difficult to shut off to sleep. A detox can prevent pre-bed smartphone usage resulting in falling asleep faster and getting a better overall night’s sleep.


Although technology has made the lives of millions of people easier, it has come with drawbacks. A digital detox can improve a person’s life and help them rediscover themselves and what is important in life.


References: Digital detox

1. Barney, D (2004) The vanishing table, or community in a world that is no world. In: Feenberg, A, Barney, D (eds) Community in the Digital Age: Philosophy and Practice. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 3153. Google Scholar

2. Baym, NK (2010) Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Polity. Google Scholar

3. Crook, C (2015) The Joy of Missing Out. Gabriola Island: New Society. Google Scholar

4. Harris T. How technology hijacks people’s minds –from a magician and Google’s design ethicist. 2016. (2016, accessed on 21st June 2020).

5. Cuéllar JM, Lanman TH. ‘Text neck’: An epidemic of the modern era of cell phones? Spine J 2017; 17: 901–902. [PubMed] []

6. Ugur NG, Koc T. Time for digital detox: Misuse of mobile technology and phubbing. Procedia Soc Behav Sci 2015; 195: 1022–1031. []

7. Lin YH, Lin YC, Lee YH, et al. Time distortion associated with smartphone addiction: Identifying smartphone addiction via a mobile application (App). J Psychiatr Res 2015; 65: 139–145. [PubMed] []

8. Yardley L, Spring BJ, Riper H, et al. Understanding and promoting effective engagement with digital behavior change interventions. Am J Prev Med 2016; 51: 833–842. [PubMed]


Digital Detox Resources

Family Media Use Plan

Screen Time and Young Children

Parenting to Reduce Screen Time

Alexander Bentley is the Chairman & CEO of Remedy Wellbeing™ as well as the creator & pioneer behind Tripnotherapy™, embracing ‘NextGen’ psychedelic bio-pharmaceuticals to treat burnout, addiction, depression, anxiety and psychological unease.

Under his leadership as CEO, Remedy Wellbeing™ received the accolade of Overall Winner: Worlds Best Rehab 2022 by Worlds Best Rehab Magazine. Because of his incredible work, the clinic is the world’s first $1 million-plus exclusive rehab center providing an escape for individuals and families requiring absolute discretion such as Celebrities, Sportspeople, Executives, Royalty, Entrepreneurs and those subject to intense media scrutiny.

Digital Detox
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Digital Detox
During a digital detox, a person will refrain from using electronic devices. The detox could be completed at home by an individual or at a retreat. Regardless of the place in which the detox occurs, the aim is for the individual to get away from the stresses caused by digital technology devices.
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