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Social distancing and tech - dos and don'ts

How to, and how not to, use tech while you’re social distancing.

Social distancing is a phrase that meant nothing at the start of the year but now it’s dominating our lives. And with everyone except key workers being told to stay inside and avoid meeting friends and family, a lot of us are feeling pretty isolated at the moment.

This is making people more dependent than ever on their smartphones. Whether it’s checking the news, keeping in touch with loved ones or indulging in some online gaming, our mobiles can be a real lifeline during this difficult time.

But can we have too much of a good thing? Are we at risk of becoming more addicted than ever to our devices? After all, it’s all too easy to fall into bad habits while we’re stuck at home.

So with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of things you can do with your smartphone that’ll help while you’re social distancing, and a few things you should avoid.

Do keep in touch with friends and family

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Number one ‘do’ on the list is the most important one: stay in touch with your nearest and dearest. Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you have to be completely cut off from your family and friends. In fact maybe you can use this time to reconnect with people you might not have spoken to in a while.

There’s never been a better time to pick up the phone and have a chat so give one of your old friends a call, or surprise your overseas relatives with a Skype video call. With everyone in the same boat, those WhatsApp group chats are going to be buzzing

And with apps allowing multiple people on video chats, you can turn group messaging into group videoing. Get a few of your friends together and do a quiz on Friday night via Zoom, or set up a Google Hangouts meeting so you and your work team can still enjoy that 3pm tea break together.

Find out which video apps are great to use with your friends

Do use health apps to help with other forms of exercise

Apple Watch Series 4 health fitness

“Stay at home” is the big message of the government’s social distancing policy, and that might hinder your normal exercise routine. However, it’s still going to be important to try and maintain your health and fitness. The health app in your phone could be a good start.

You can tailor indoor workouts to do in the living room (or the garden if you have one), monitor your steps and heart rate - and even make sure you’re getting a decent night’s sleep.

Remember, under the government’s guidelines we’re still allowed to go outside for brief solo exercise once a day, so now could be the perfect time to dust off your running boots and get back into jogging. Map My Run is a great app for tracking routes, distances and times.

Do clean your phone

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Most of us are glued to our phones nowadays anyway. But with social distancing in place, you’re probably going to be spending even more time looking at and using your phone.

According to research we pick up our phones around 100 times a day. But with reports suggesting that Coronavirus is able to live on surfaces for days, keeping your smartphone clean is really important, especially as you have it up against your face when making calls.

Now you may think just giving your phone a quick wipe will clean it, but in truth you need to give it a thorough clean to get rid of any harmful bacteria. In just a few steps you can have your phone in pristine condition.

Not sure what to do? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a handy step-by-step guide for you.

Find out how to thoroughly clean your smartphone

Do download some great apps

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Whether you want to be entertained, enlightened or energised, there are all sorts of apps to take your mind off social distancing. From your streaming favourites like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to classic games like Words With Friends and Quiz Up, we’re lucky to have a lot of entertainment options in our smartphones.

Of course there are also loads of great apps for things like creativity and mindfulness too. If you’re an iPhone user you may the movie editing app iMovie pre downloaded on to your phone. Now could be the perfect time to dry out your directing for that big Hollywood break once social distancing is over. Or just download Tik Tok and upload some vids there.

And if you do want to clear your thoughts, try Headspace for all sorts of mindfulness tips and techniques.

Check out our guide on the best apps to use when you’re social distancing.

Do keep an eye on your digital wellbeing

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Our devices and tech offer a great deal of resources to keep us busy and entertained. But you might not want to be glued to your phone all day. Digital wellbeing is all about remembering to put your phone down and limiting the elements of tech that can get harmful if used too much - such as your big display’s blue light.

Why not set yourself a couple of hours a day where you put your phone down and read a book or spend time with the people you live with? This could be especially helpful in the evening as looking at screens too close to bedtime can have a detrimental effect on sleep quality.

Scientific research has shown that staring at blue screens increases cortisol and depletes melatonin. And when this happens before bed time it stops us from enjoying a ‘deep sleep’, which is really important for virtually all aspects of our general health.

Now the simple solution is to simply not look at your phone after a certain time in the evening, but obviously that’s easier said than done. So just try to limit the amount of blue light you’re exposed to.

Most smartphones have a setting in the display section that will enable you to filter out blue light and get a softer screen, and some even have a ‘night mode’ that blacks out all the backgrounds and is a lot easier on the eyes in the evening.

Do turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot


Working at home can come with some obstacles. From a good space to set up shop to an unstable Wi-Fi connection, sometimes things can get tricky. But if it’s the latter, did you know your smartphone might be able to help out?

Most mobile networks allow you to use your smartphone’s data allowance for ‘tethering’ which turns your smartphone into a useful Wi-Fi hotspot. And with some networks increasing data allowances for free during the Coronavirus situation, this could be an indispensable tool if your home Wi-Fi randomly drops out halfway through an important meeting.

Want to know more about mobile tethering? We’ve got a guide for that.

Do still listen to music

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Perhaps surprisingly, since lockdown people have been listening to less music. According to research, all of the countries most affected by Coronavirus (including the UK) have reported less streaming on Spotify. Now this could be down to a few factors. For one, since a lot of us are now working from home, that means there’s no more daily commute - prime music listening time. Also, if you’re working in your living room and not in an office, you might not reach for the headphones and instead put the telly on for a bit of background noise.

And while there’s no end of great stuff to watch on TV, let’s not forget the brilliantly positive qualities of music! From getting you motivated to giving you a pick-me-up if you’re feeling a bit down, music is a great way of raising spirits and feeling energised.

So instead of having some mindless daytime TV droning on in the background, go back to those playlists. And remember, if you’re on your own you can sing along to your heart’s content without raising any eyebrows. Unless your neighbours hear you.

See how mobile usage has changed during Coronavirus

Don’t look at work apps outside of work hours

Working from home can really disrupt your work-life balance. In fact, research has shown that people actually end up working longer hours when they’re working from home. This might be because people are keen to show they’re not slacking when outside of the office, or simply because, without a commute before and after work, it's a bit harder to switch off.

But you should remember that it is important to switch off. So set yourself hours and when you’re done, don't check your work email, log off from the Slack and say goodbye to your colleagues. Work life balance is always vital, and that’s especially important at the moment.

Don’t ignore your step tracker

Step trackers are a great way of keeping us abreast of how much we’ve walked around and been active during the day. However, since we’re not getting up and out of the house like we used to, that 10,000 step count alert might start to get annoying.

Pro tip - just adjust the number of steps you’re aiming for. Since you’re probably not going to be able to match your usual number, why not halve it? You might still be able to get your steps in moving around at home, or going for a walk around the block.

Don’t spend all your time reading Coronavirus news

We live in the information age, from official articles to #LongRead thinkpieces to anecdotal tweets and speculative articles. And there is no end of Coronavirus content out there. But while it’s really sensible to stay on top of the news, spending a lot of time reading about Coronavirus probably isn’t going to be great for mental health.

And remember, we unfortunately also live in an age where there’s a lot of misinformation circulating too. So whether it's excessive scaremongering or dangerous fake news, you’ll likely find a lot of conflicting reports and claims that’ll make the situation feel even scarier.

For this reason, we recommend sticking to official Government announcements and for health advice go to NHS websites only. In fact, a number of mobile phone networks have made access to NHS websites completely free. And they’re also putting some big measures in place to support customers.

Find out more about what the mobile phones networks are doing for their customers during coronavirus.

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