Karnataka govt announces ‘Digital Detox’ initiative to encourage mindful use of social media, gaming

Speaking at GAFX 2024, the IT&BT Minister said the aim is to spread awareness about the ills of spending too much time in the digital world.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 02, 2024 | 11:04 AMUpdatedFeb 02, 2024 | 11:04 AM

Karnataka IT&BT Minister Priyank Kharge at GAFX 2024. (X)

The Karnataka government, on Thursday, 1 February, said that it would launch a “Digital Detox” initiative in collaboration with the All India Game Developers Forum (AIGDF), with special emphasis on gaming and social media use.

The aim is to spread awareness about the ills of spending too much time in the digital world and instead create an environment of responsible gaming, Minister for IT&BT Priyank Kharge said.

Speaking at the valedictory function of GAFX 2024, he said, “The Digital Detox initiative is yet another step towards fulfilling this government’s commitment of building a digitally empowered Karnataka through responsible use of technology.”

Observing that mental health issues, shrinking attention spans and fraying real-world relationships are the outcomes of digital dependence, the Minister said that technology has woven itself firmly into the fabric of everyone’s lives, and being glued to screens has become the norm in this hyper-connected age.

This is because it offers convenience and connection at the fingertips, but it is, at the same time, exacting a heavy cost. “This initiative will enable an environment of meaningful and constructive use of technology while minimising its adverse effects,” he assured.

The Government of Karnataka will work with AIGDF and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) to raise awareness about mindful technology.

Also Read: NoMophobia is real: NIMHANS launches a helpline to help you with digital detox

Digital detox centres

Last year, the state government partnered with social media giant Meta to announce measures to draw the attention of students and educators to the need for online safety, and how to use social media responsibly and use off-screen time usefully.

A study published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience showed that frequent technology use was linked to heightened attention-deficit symptoms, social isolation, technology addiction, impaired emotional and social intelligence, impaired brain development, disrupted sleep in many cases, and even insomnia.

Through this initiative, both online and offline Digital Detox Centres will be set up across the state of Karnataka, which will offer personalised guidance, where trained professionals will provide counselling and support to individuals seeking to navigate their relationship with technology, an official release said.

Practical tools and techniques will help individuals learn effective strategies for managing screen time, setting boundaries, and cultivating mindful and healthy technology habits, it said, adding that community connection will work through workshops, group activities and support groups to foster a sense of belonging and shared experience in the journey towards digital wellness.

Also Read: The dark side of online gaming: Why it is not all fun and games

NIMHANS launches detox helpline

In 2022, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru started a first-of-its-kind helpline for a digital detox.

The helpline is the brainchild of Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, clinical psychologist and the coordinator of Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT).

Sharma told South First then that this kind of behavioural addiction has a new name: NoMophobia.

A no-mobile-phone-phobia has started in people — the fear of being without a mobile device.

Mobile phone/technology addiction definitely needs a digital detox, and many are not aware of how to go about it. Our helpline will help people achieve this,” Sharma explained to South First.

Also Read: Internet Gaming Disorder among medicos: A growing concern impacting mental health

How do you do a digital detox?

While completely stopping the use of technology may not be feasible for various reasons, Dr Sharma explained that “cutting down the time of usage seems like a more realistic approach”.

To do this, there is a need for a proper plan to decide what needs to change.

Here are some tips:

  1. Schedule time away from screens through the day.
  2. Keep an alarm on your phone to remind you to go for a walk or get away from the desk for 30 minutes at least during your work schedule.
  3. Delete some of the problematic apps from your phone, either temporarily or even for good.
  4. After a detailed note on which app — for instance, Instagram — is getting more addictive, it can be deleted on a temporary basis to re-evaluate the need for being on it.
  5. Downgrade the phone by replacing the smartphone with a simple cell phone. (This can be done for severe addiction cases and for children as well)
  6. Turn off the phone every day at a specific time.
  7. Enable “Do not disturb”; silence all alerts, notifications, calls, etc, during dinner, and a few hours after that.
  8. Adjust phone settings to limit certain apps.
  9. Create no-phone areas. Ban phones from the bedroom, dinner table, etc.
  10. Uniform rules for everyone at home are a MUST.
  11. Reach out to a mental health professional if it is becoming difficult to detox.

(With PTI inputs)