The Digital Nutrition Philosophy

An evidence-based, guilt-free alternative to traditional notions of screen time management

The Digital Nutrition philosophy is a positive framework for considering technology like food and nutrition. It builds upon much of what we have learned about intuitive eating and applying this to how we consume screens and create a sustainable tech diet.

Click the principle below to read more:

  1. You are what you scroll through
  2. The analogy of technology as a drug is unhelpful
  3. Ditch digital calorie counting, look for the virtual vitamins
  4. Digital detoxes don’t work, choose to unplug mindfully
  5. Deploy soft skills over software
  6. Balance is BS and digital abstinence is a privilege
  7. Caveat emptor – let the technology buyer beware (and informed)

01/

YOU ARE WHAT YOU SCROLL THROUGH.

Like the saying ‘you are what you eat’, the images, information and ideas you consume through online platforms can shape your cognitions, emotions, values and attitudes.  

If you are consuming a lot of highly processed sugary junk via your devices, that content can shape your thinking, opinions and mindset – and not necessarily in a positive way!  

You are also ‘feeding’ an algorithm that then will further predict and shape the content and information you consume, creating a sometimes quite narrow and unrealistic perception of topics, subjects and themes.

02/

THE ANALOGY OF TECHNOLOGY AS AN ILLICIT DRUG IS UNHELPFUL.

Many fear-based approaches will make comparisons with technology use activating the same parts of the brain as illicit drugs. Let’s do better and be smarter. 

Food is a better analogy – it’s about what we consume and some of that can be adaptive, functional, healthful and useful. If anything, we can think of devices as like a syringe – a delivery system and what you put in the needle is the difference between using insulin or a vaccine, or an illicit substance like heroin or meth.  

03/

DITCH COUNTING DIGITAL CALORIES, LOOK FOR THE VIRTUAL VITAMINS.

Time spent online is only one metric to consider in relation to the impacts of technology.  Too much focus on time alone ignores the ‘virtual vitamins’ contained in online content and the context that they are consumed in. 

We don’t sit down to meals and have ‘food time’ we consider what’s on our plate and the combination of macro nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Similarly when we consume technology it’s important to consider the content, context and function of that activity, not just the time spend (which is not to say time is not a factor).

04/

DIGITAL DETOXES DON’T WORK, CHOOSE TO MINDFULLY UNPLUG INSTEAD.

The notion of a ‘digital detox’ is another way that diet-culture permeates our lives.  Just like fad diets don’t work in the long term, digital detox approaches are being shown to be ineffective for sustainable behaviour change. 

Often technology detox techniques simply involve forcing yourself to abstain, without examining your cognitions, automatic habits and coping strategies that have you reach for technology in the first place. 

When we pause to examine these mindless and impulsive habits and their (dis)function we can choose to shape a digital diet that instead gives us the opportunity to connect purposefully.

05/

DEPLOY SOFT SKILLS OVER SOFTWARE TO HELP WRANGLE HABITS

Your brain is the most complex piece of technology on the planet. When we place a focus on learning and applying soft skills (those related to communication, self-control, resilience and other personality traits) to developing healthful technology habits, we can apply these to a range of other contexts too.

An over reliance on apps and software to control our habits, denies us the opportunity to flex some of our mental muscles and live more aligned to our values and the stuff that matters.  

This is not to say some apps and controls aren’t very helpful and practical in supporting us learn skills like self-control or delaying gratification, or particularly for young people, protecting them from harmful and inappropriate content – we just don’t want to depend on these. 

06/ 

‘BALANCE’ IS BS AND DIGITAL ABSTINENCE IS A PRIVILEGE. 

I’ve written about why I call BS on the notion of balance here. There is no ‘perfect balance’ there is lots of ways to blend activities and habits and be responsive to what life throws at you. 

Sure, you have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce (or insert name of uber celebrity) but you don’t have the same resources (I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have to fold the laundry!).  So, when people cite celebrities who delete their accounts or swear off social media – remember they have a whole team of people who support their daily lives. 

Totally unplugging and digital abstinence is a ship that has sailed for many of us. Again, this is about intentional and intelligent choices that align to what really matters to you.

07/ 

CAVEAT EMPTOR – LET THE TECHNOLOGY CONSUMER BEWARE

Often consumers are too busy, tired and overwhelmed to be informed about what they are buying into, or even giving away when they purchase, use or engage in devices, platforms and apps. 

Who has time to read 97 pages of T&C’s? Who has the legal skills to understand them?  While there is a need for more accessible product disclosures and terms of service agreement, it’s up to us as consumers to be informed and aware. 

It can be easy to ‘freak out’ about what we hear about the impacts of social on mental health and wellbeing – but to actively change behaviours we need to be in an empowered informed space, not one of fear.  Which is why Digital Nutrition is about ‘facting-up’ and digging into rigorous research on cyberpsychology and related issues.

Explore the courses

DN 101

Digital Nutrition 101

Start here! Learn the basics of digital wellbeing and the Digital Nutrition philosophy

Tech use agreement

Screens In Early Childhood

It’s never too early to build healthy tech habits. A series for parents of 6 month to 6 year olds

Tech use agreement

Design Your Family's Tech-Use Agreement

Reduce conflict over screen use, create an agreement over where technology fit in family life

Tech use agreement

Talking to T(w)eens about Tricky Topics

Upskill on having those awkward cringey convos and (re)build connection with your kids

Tech use agreement

Is My Child Ready For A Smartphone?

Key considerations for assessing when and how to introduce your child to their own high-powered hand-held devices

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