Focus & Digital Balance

Blogging about Digital Detox and unplugging, customizing our connectivity, new technologies, distraction management, and a healthy lifestyle in our hyperconnected world

Smartphones won’t make your kids dumb. We think.

iphone _ offtime _ digital detox _ unplug _ just enough

Like many parents, Sandy is concerned about how much time her 18-month-old spends in front of screens. Weighing up the available evidence, Olivia Solon explains that she might be worrying too much.

Jessica’s tiny fingers dart around the iPad, swiping through photos to get to a particularly entertaining video: a 12-second clip of her dancing clumsily to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies. The 18-month-old taps “play” and emits a squeal of delight.

After watching the video twice, she navigates back to the home screen and opens up the YouTube app to watch an episode of the colourful animation Billy Bam Bam. Halfway through, she moves onto a Yo Gabba Gabba! game, which involves anthropomorphised fruits making their way into a character’s belly.

When Jessica’s mum, Sandy, tries to take away the iPad, there’s a tantrum that threatens to go nuclear: wobbly lip, tears, hands balled into fists and a high-pitched wail. “She does this a lot,” says Sandy. “She seems to prefer the iPad to everything else. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will keep her quiet,” she adds, frantically waving a pink fluffy unicorn in an attempt to appease her daughter.

Like many parents, she’s worried about her child’s obsession with screens. She wants to know which activities are best, and how much time spent on screens is too much.

It’s six years since the launch of the iPad and, with it, the rebirth of tablet computers. The academic research simply hasn’t been able to catch up, which means it’s hard to know the long-term impact on young brains of being exposed to tablets and smartphones.

The concern among some experts is that these devices, if used in particular ways, could be changing children’s brains for the worse – potentially affecting their attention, motor control, language skills and eyesight, especially in under-fives, for whom so much brain development is taking place.

Technology companies and app developers are throwing their marketing prowess at the problem, slapping words like “educational” and “e-learning” on their products, often without any scientific basis. So what are parents to do? Continue reading

Offline-Places and Spaces

Solitude Focus Sharing Unplug Comic

We’re listing and looking for ‪#‎Offline‬ places – you know: places which are analogue and where there is really no or very limited network connection, internet or are technology-free zones – in Berlin, Germany, EU or the US. Permanent and temporary, existing because of technical gaps or social norms, on the countryside or in the city. Do you know any? If so, please drop us a line via or @getofftime.

Some of the places we know already: Continue reading

(English) The internet is designed to manipulate you, but you can fight back with psychology

On is a very nice article we recommend reading about ‚internet is designed to manipulate you, but you can fight back with psychology‘ by Elliot Berkman, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon. It’s very much reflects how we see it and brings also up insights we base our ( OFFTIME ) development on.

„Good self-control [is] characterized by the ability to avoid temptations in the first place. We often think of self-control as the ability to white-knuckle our way through temptation, but studies such as this one indicate that self-control can also be as simple as planning ahead to avoid those traps.“

Smartphone before sex?


Almost every tenth person (9%) used the smartphone during sexual intercourse; 20% of those who admit this are 18 to 34 year old.

This was found by the Mobile Consumer Habit Survey, comissioned by Jumio, conducted with 1102 American smartphone users. The survey does not share what the persons used the smartphone for.

Research in other contries discloses a similar trend. For instance, a German study among youth reveals youngsters would prefer to abstain from sex than from their smartphone: 60% of the 14 to 19 years old would abstain from sex for one week; in contrast only 46% would abstain from their smartphone.

In case you don’t want to have this happening to you, you better make sure to have your phone out of reach in particular moments. You may set an OFFTIME.

1) 2013 study on mobile consumer habits (Jumio)
2) Smartphone und Handy für Jugendliche wichtiger als TV und Liebesleben (Congstar GmbH)

The detrimental effect of mobile phones on personal relationships

relationships - mobile phone distraction

We all know what it’s like to be distracted by our mobile phones. We’ve also all experienced what it’s like when the people around us are distracted by theirs. It’s no wonder that comic Charlene deGuzman’s timely video ‘I Forgot My Phone’ had 8 million views in its first week online, and now, just 9 months later, has amassed over 43 million views on YouTube. It’s an astute parody about a phoneless woman living in a hyperconnected world that’s both amusing and haunting in equal measure. Continue reading

The Art of Detachment: Why Unplugging is the Best Way to Recharge

blog_illustration1When leaving the workplace- after shedding an average day’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears- you just want to close that door behind you, and take a load off. But it’s never that simple, is it? Workplace stress, like unruly toilet paper stuck to one’s shoe, hitches a ride with you out of that door. The pressures of modern working life leads to most people bringing their work home with them whether they want to or not. If they don’t, there might be missed opportunities or severe repercussions. But what are the costs of our home lives becoming extensions of our working lives? What are the knock-on effects of work-infested leisure time?

Sabine Sonnentag’s paper, ‘Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time’ (2012) cogently explains the benefits of leaving all work-related thoughts and duties where they rightfully belong- the workplace.  Not only is detaching from work something that people should look forward to and enjoy doing, but it actually comes gift-wrapped with a whole bunch of bonuses for your health. Continue reading

5 Tips on How to Work Smarter Without Your Smartphone

Many health professionals recommend times where you disconnect. Productivity gurus advise you to ignore your ever beeping devices since ages already. Why? Because putting your device away pretty much means applying 95% of all productivity tips in one go. In fact, working without your device for a full day (like we promote right now with our „Mobile Free Mondays“ initiative) could result both in a boost for your productivity and a better well-being. That said, a weekly day off the grid comes as a real challenge: Can you still manage some hours without your phone? And how does it make you feel?

To make this challenge a little easier and to avoid any bad surprises, we recommend sticking with the following 5 things. If you have further tips, please let us know and we’ll extend this list.

Continue reading

Why can’t we switch off? Social Media is the new Junk Food


Social Media is the new Junk Food—and it is even more powerful. To many people, social media has become as important as food and sex. While our desire for food and sex seems to have a clear reason, our need for social media and the digital is not that obvious. To make it more apparent, I will go into more detail in the following. Also, similar to too much (junk) food, too much (junk) information is not beneficial for our health and well-being. While there are already some solutions to help us to deal with this, we need more of those solutions—and we have to develop and use a new form of technology, technology that doesn’t exploit us, but that supports us.

The following blog post goes hand in hand with a spontaneous TEDx talk I gave at TEDxEutropolis 2013 – “Are we connected?”. You can watch it online here or read the whole argument in full length below.  Continue reading