The idea of having technology in your watch seems like something out of a science fiction novel at first, with the screen popping up in the air in a bright neon blue or green. Even twenty years ago, a digital watch with a timer on it felt super futuristic. But today, with at least 1 in 5 people wearing, and actively using, some sort of wearable on their wrist, it’s increasingly becoming the norm to have a mini-computer on you at all times.
Wearables (literally wearable technology) most often include things like smartwatches or a wearable fitness tracker (like a Fitbit). They’re designed to connect with your phone through an app and help keep track of things like your heart rate, act like a remote with your music, and can keep you connected by sending you notifications from your phone. The more complex they get, the more they can do, like answer phone calls.
This is where it gets tricky, though. Being constantly connected to your device can have its benefits – for example, you can know right away if an emergency contact is reaching out or if there’s something urgent you need to respond to right away. It can help you develop goals and keep track of habits, including those that can benefit your mental health. For example, you can set goals to get a certain amount of steps a day to encourage activity and making sure you’re not staying in one place, and like we talked about last week, you can keep track of your sleeping habits.
Wearables have also increasingly become methods of improving and monitoring mental health too. Apple Watches has an app on their device that helps you with deep breathing, and many mental health experts and researchers are starting to use wearables as a way to track patients’ mental health and keep an eye out for symptoms. If something seems troubling – like constantly high heart rates or prolonged periods of sleep, experts can reach out to the wearer to see how they’re doing.
Constantly being connected to your device and technology can also be really stressful, too. Notifications can already heighten your child’s anxiety, and getting them the second they happen can make that anxiety feel even higher. It’s easy to put the phone on “do not disturb” and put it in another room to avoid notification anxiety, but that’s not really a solution if one’s wrist is buzzing the second they get a text. Additionally, constantly getting notifications can be distracting from work, and the anxiety with not getting that work done can start building up. There might be the opposite effect as well: your child knowing that they could be getting notifications but aren’t getting any can make them start worrying that no one wants to reach out to them, which can then lead into snowball thinking about their relationships and whether people like them or not.
If your child leans into more perfectionist tendencies, those habit and goal trackers can cause them to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression as well. If they’re not meeting the goals they set for themselves or dismiss reminders from their wearable to accomplish a task, you may feel like that’s reflective of their self-worth and their ability (or what their think is a lack thereof) of their productivity.
So, with all of this, wearables can both benefit and harm your mental health, just like any other technological device. Luckily, there are some solutions that your child can try out if they do feel like wearables might be increasing their anxiety. For example, they can choose which apps send you notifications (do they really need to get a buzz on your wrist about a sale?), and it might lead them to make the decision to mute group chats so they’re not constantly getting reminders on your wearable. They can also choose not to use a a wearable as a habit tracker if you feel that it would only cause more stress.
As technology continues to grow, our access and attachment to them continues to increase. Finding the balance between what is useful and what can be stressful depends on the person, but it’s a learning process as we continue to adjust to how much more connected to technology we have become.
Do you own a wearable? Does your child? Do you think it’s affected their mental health in anyway? What do you like or dislike about it?