Give yourself a digital detox building healthy habits

Lockdown has been challenging for everyone at University this year. With social activities limited, playing a FIFA tournament with friends or placing a bet on an accumulator may have provided some much-needed excitement. But would you consider your lockdown habits to be healthy in the long-term? …
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav
digital detox

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Lockdown has been challenging for everyone at University this year. With social activities limited, playing a FIFA tournament with friends or placing a bet on an accumulator may have provided some much-needed excitement. But would you consider your lockdown habits to be healthy in the long-term? 

Before the pandemic 24% of students who gambled were at risk of gambling-related harm. Meanwhile 20% of students who gamed daily had a negative sense of belonging to their university and 48% said it got in the way of their academic performance. COVID-19 has created an environment where both of these risk factors can escalate quickly and quietly. 

The global pandemic has changed student life dramatically. Freshers, socials, and partying have been replaced with isolation, uncertainty and frustration. The NUS and charities like Student Minds have warned of the mental health impact of academic workload, difficulty accessing support services, financial concerns and, in some cases, having to self-isolate in halls of residence or private accommodation. For many students, the online world of gaming has become their only way to escape to normal life. 

You will struggle to find a student who doesn’t own a mobile phone, games console or tablet. These devices provide instant access to a vast world of games. With universities shut and online learning taking over, students are spending more time indoors and isolated. Students are gaming more, and screen time has increased. 

phone time

Insight gained from students through YGAM’s 2019 research study show student often turned to gambling and gaming as a way of reducing stress and increase social interaction. However, gambling and gaming are also linked with students seeking to escape the pressures brought on by being at university, and with poor well-being. These moments of stress appear to be coupled with greater feelings of uncertainty for students with the research revealing that students, may turn to gambling and/or gaming as an attempt to feel more ‘in control’ of what they are doing. 

The negative impact of gambling and gaming on student wellbeing, academic performance and social interaction becomes clear in our research, particularly for moderate risk and problem gamblers and those who game regularly. One third of these students say their gambling habits have a negative effect on their well-being, over half have considered dropping out of university and one in seven have a negative perception of their overall university experience.

YGAMs’ University & Student Engagement programme employs students in part-time jobs to deliver awareness campaigns to fellow students within their university about the risks associated with gaming and gambling.  YGAM recently launched their new Student Hub website which has been developed with students for students to provide free advice to help students enjoy a university experience free from gaming and gambling harms. The digital resource has received high profile endorsements from the National Union of Students (NUS), academics and universities. The website features interactive elements along with lived-experience case studies to further highlight the real issues of gambling and gaming harms on university campuses. YGAM are also offering training and resources to university staff to help safeguard students by identifying signs of gambling harms and signposting to the support available.

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Quick tips from YGAM

Gaming on your phone for too long?

Major phone providers all now let you limit the amount of time you spend each day on the apps on your smartphone. You can increase this to allow more on weekends if needed to focus you during the week. You can also incrementally reduce the time you allow on gaming apps to help make a sustainable change.

Look up the instructions for your provider online to see how you can make this change.

Is gaming affecting your ability to complete assignments?

  Try using your game time as a reward for making progress or completing assignments, rather than a procrastination tool. If you struggle with self-restraint, how about you hand over your device or controllers to your flatmate and they can be the one to hand it back once you’ve completed your workload?

Tempted by targeted ads online and on social media?

Often, we don’t know how advertisers do it, but they have ways of finding out what we’re looking at and talking about online. There’s still a long way for platforms to go on managing this but advice on how to restrict advertising online and on social media exists at Gamble Aware here.

Gaming at night?

It’s important to set boundaries on the time spent gaming.  This can be easier if you ensure it is done as a social activity with flatmates and friends. Focus on games you play with friends saving single player games for quiet time. You could also join the Esports society at your university. 

Concerned about someone’s gambling behaviour (including yourself)?

Sometimes a person’s gaming or gambling behaviour begins to cause more serious harm to their life. For them it may be harder to implement healthy habits as a solution. But plenty of support exists for students in this situation.

This article was developed in association with YGAM. Supporting students to enjoy a university experience free from gaming and gambling related harm. 

Visit the YGAM website  for lots of information, advice and activities to help students understand and prevent the harms associated with gambling and gambling.

It can feel difficult to open up about your gambling, which is why YGAM trains university staff about this very issue. It is important to know that your university or students’ union advice service will be confidential and understanding of your situation.

Talk to someone about your gambling. If you’re worried about your gambling activity or someone else’s, the National Gambling Helpline provides confidential information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling problems in England, Scotland and Wales. You can speak with Advisers one-to-one over the phone or via live chat every day of the year, 24 hours a day. They will be able to listen to what’s going on for you, and can talk you through all of the options available to you for support in your local area, online or over the phone.

Call on Freephone 0808 8020 133.

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