Chapter 4 - Digital Wellness

Student looking at available apps on an iPad

Technology is everywhere. It's a major part of your experience at Ohio State, and we imagine that it's a big part of your personal life, too. We see it in news headlines all the time: how much time with technology is too much time? How do you stay safe online? 
 
This chapter covers some healthy practices that you can adopt so that technology is a tool for you as a student (and more importantly, as a human). We'll talk about setting boundaries, staying focused and safeguards to keep you and your information secure.

Mindful Technology Use

Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” (emphasis added)

We define mindful technology use as knowing what you’re doing with technology and why you’re doing it.

Shouldn’t we already know what we’re doing and why? Well, with technology all around us it’s easy to connect without even thinking about it. Because research shows that taking a break from technology can make us more productive, enhance our relationships and even improve our sleep, we want to discuss how to implement a mindful technology practice.

Why Mindful Technology Use is Needed

Do you find yourself drawn to your phone or iPad, convinced that there’s a notification when there really isn’t? Do you check a social media app that you just closed without even thinking about it? Do you have a hard time focusing when your is phone nearby?

We’ve all had these experiences to some degree. The good news is that it’s super common, but the not-so-good news is that apps are designed to make us keep coming back (the more we use an app, the more a company makes from their advertisers or investors).

Here’s some ways apps are designed to be addictive, according to the Center for Humane Technology:

  • Red badge notifications prompt us to open an app because the color red causes us more stress; we want it to disappear from our screens. If those notification badges were a different color, they wouldn’t feel as stressful and we might not want them to go away as urgently.
  • Endless scrolling mimics the addictive properties of a slot machine, promising something new and exciting each time. It makes us load apps endlessly so that we stay in them longer.
  • Disappearing content like Snaps or Stories are designed to make us want to open an app just to make sure we haven’t missed anything in the last 24 hours.

 

Mindful vs. Mindless Technology Use

All this talk about technology and addiction…does that mean technology is bad? The short answer is no. Technology has given us medical advancement, airplanes, ATMs, and real-time connection to people across the globe (plus so many other good things!). Technology is a neutral tool to help us accomplish tasks, and it’s important that you know how to use it for your future career. We want to help you distinguish between mindful technology use and mindless technology use.

Here are some ways to fight against mindless technology use so that you can focus well and maintain balance:

  • Don’t look at screens right before bed: Blue light is emitted from all screens. Contrary to popular belief, it won’t make your eyes strain. Any light emitted from a screen at night tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime, so we lose sleep. The best way to combat this is to stop looking at screens an hour or two before bedtime.
  • Put your phone as far away as possible when studying: A study done by the University of Chicago found that the proximity of one’s smart phone negatively impacted their ability to focus, remember, think critically, and problem solve. You can also use the iOS tips below to block any distracting content on your iPad while you're studying or in class so that your brain is focusing at its best.
  • Take a break or set limits on social media (with your friends!): Social media apps tend to use addictive features the most. Try taking a break from some of these apps with your friends or set personal time limits using Screen Time (more on that tool below!). Evaluate how you feel after a break or using the apps less.

If you want to learn more about how mindless technology use affects us, consider reading through the Ledger of Harms by the Center for Humane Technology.

iOS Tools to Help Create Balance

Your iPad has features built in to help you set limits and create balance. Most of them are in your Settings under Screen Time.

Activity Data

First, Screen Time will show you data about how you’ve been using your iPad or iPhone. Find out which apps you use the most, which apps you’re most likely to use after picking up your device, how often you pick up your device, and more.

Use this section to inform you. Don’t be intimidated by the data you see; knowledge is power! This information can help you make decisions about how you want to use technology in the future.

Activity Data step-by-step:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > See All Activity
  2. View your app usages, notifications, and device pick ups
  3. Think about how you’re using your device. Do you want to make any changes based on what you see?

A gif showing the steps for checking activity data.

App Limits

Do you only want to use YouTube for 45 minutes a day? You can do that. Want to set a limit for all gaming apps? You can do that. Use this feature to remind you about your tech-usage goals.

App Limits step-by-step:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > App Limits
  2. Tap Add Limit
  3. Select a category
  4. Tap All to the right to see each app in that category
  5. Customize the limit by deselecting the check box to the left of the category name. Now you can choose the apps that you want to apply to this limit
  6. Tap Next and then choose the time limit. Customize the days this limit applies to if you prefer
  7. Tap Add to set the limit

A gif showing the steps for setting app limits.

Downtime

Schedule time away from apps that you choose. Similar to App Limits, you can temporarily block apps to help you mindfully use technology. Downtime will block apps for a time period that you choose. Use Downtime to block apps when you want to get ready for bed or while you study.

Downtime step-by-step:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime
  2. Turn Downtime on
  3. Choose the days and times that you want to use Downtime

A gif showing the steps for setting up Downtime.

Always Allowed

Choose apps that won’t be block by App Limits or Downtime in Always Allowed.

Note: always allowed apps still count toward use time in App Limits. While you will still be able to use that app after the limit has been reached, the rest of the apps in that limit will be blocked.

Always Allowed step-by-step:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Always Allowed
  2. Tap the green plus icon to add apps into Always Allowed

 

Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb silences notifications on your iPad so that it doesn't make noise light up the screen. It's an extremely helpful tool to mute any distractions temporarily.

Do Not Disturb step-by-step:

  1. Swipe from the top right corner of the screen to open the Control Center
  2. Tap the half-moon icon to turn on Do Not Disturb
  3. Long hold the icon to reveal more options: set for 1 hour, Until this Evening, until I leave this location, and until a calendar event ends
  4. Tap Schedule to automate when Do Not Disturb turns on each day

A gif showing the steps for setting up Do Not Disturb.

Protect Yourself Online

Strategies to prevent identify theft 

Practicing good cyber hygiene can keep your information safe online. Be proactive in protecting your identify by following the advice below.  

 

Multi-Factor Authentication 

Multi-Factor authentication (MFA) is a security feature that requires more than one method to log in, like entering an additional password or validating your login attempt through email or a text message. When possible, strongly consider MFA. This doesn’t just apply to university services that require BuckeyePass. Your online bank, Google account and others may provide this service. MFA dramatically improves your security; it’s much harder to pretend you are someone you’re not when you have to prove who you are in two different ways! 

The important thing to remember when you take advantage of the added security MFA affords you? Always have a backup plan. An easy way to have one is to ask BuckeyePass to send you up to 10 passcodes. Print them out and throw them in your backpack.  

What if you lose your smartphone, or simply forget it at homeYou can easily add and manage devices through the BuckeyePass siteEnrolling your iPad is an easy way to make sure you can always access your information. Try it now.

 

Avoid & Report Phishing Scams 

Phishing is a form of social engineering or scam when an attacker tries to gain access to your computer or device by tricking you into clicking a nasty link, opening a malicious attachment, or providing your login credentials on a fake siteAs an Ohio State student, it’s important to understand how to spot phishing emails. Though it can occur through different methods, it’s most common via email.  

Here's a list of factors that can possibily indicate that an email is untrustworthy: 

  • False claims, warnings and threats: Many phishing emails have a sense of urgency or make false claims that your security has been compromised. They ask you to update or validate your account by clicking on an embedded link in the email. They may threaten to lock your accounts or disable access if you do not provide this information. 

  • Unofficial "From" addresses: Look out for a sender's email address that is similar to an organization's official email address. Cybercriminals often sign up for free email accounts with company names in them to try to fool you. They can also forge the "From" address to look exactly like a legitimate address.  

  • Impersonal or strange greetings: Phishing emails sometimes start with generic phrases like "Dear valued customer" or your email account name, such as "Dear brutus.99999" instead of your nameMost legitimate companies include your name in their emails to you because they will have it on record (if you've dealt with them before).  

  • Poor spelling, punctuation and grammar: Legitimate companies or organizations usually have copy editors that ensure a mass email doesn’t have typos. If you notice mistakes in an email, it might be a scam.  

  • Spoofing popular websites or companies: Scam artists use graphics in emails that appear to be associated with legitimate websites or companies. On phony websites, cybercriminals often use web addresses that look like the names of well-known organizations but are slightly altered (osu.edu.xx, for example). These websites will also often contain a mix of legitimate links and fake links to make the spoof site seem more realistic. 

What happens once you decide an email is a phishing attempt? Avoid clicking any links and attachments you don’t trust or recognize. If youre concerned about an email, forward it to report-phish@osu.edu and the security team can vet the email.

 

Wi-Fi 

Public Wi-Fi 

Public Wi-Fi is a free wireless internet connection that is usually provided by coffee shops, restaurants, airports and other public locations. Most public Wi-Fi does not require a password and offers no protection to users. There is no assurance that your data is private while using public Wi-Fi, making you susceptible to stolen passwords, account numbers or credit card numbers. 

We don’t recommend users connecting to public Wi-Fi access points unless they are trusted and managed appropriately (such as  osuwireless, which is secure and only available to the university community using your login credentials). If you have no choice but to use public Wi-Fi, we recommend the following to avoid identity theft: 

  • Always choose secured public Wi-Fi (password required) over unsecured (no password) 

  • Use a Virtual Private Network to protect your privacy 

  • Don’t log into password protected sites (such as banking, social media, school, etc.) 

  • Don’t shop online 

  • Turn off automatic connectivity on your device 

Wi-Fi At OSU 

Ohio State provides wireless network services for Ohio State students, faculty, staff and guests. 

  • osuwireless:  Secure Wi-Fi to be used by students, faculty, and staff 

  • WiFi@OSU: Public Wi-Fi network for guests and visitors 

  • eduroam:  Secure Wi-Fi network that can be used by students and staff at Ohio State when they travel to other participating universities  

 


Resources to remember:

Protect Your Device and Data

Now that you’ve considered how to protect yourself in a digital world, let’s focus some attention on your device. Many of us have more than one digital device, and this advice can apply to all your gadgets.  

 

Passwords 

Your iPad requires a password of at least 8 alpha-numeric characters and a special character. This is so others can’t log in or access your data without your knowledge and to ensure your data won’t be breached in the case of loss or theft. We recommend you use a password or passcode on all your devices at all times, not just your iPad. It’s important that you use a unique password for each of your accounts and devices. Having trouble remembering your passwords? Consider a password manager.   

 

Backing Up Your Data 

It’s important for your data to be stored in multiple locations in case you lose your device, get a virusdamage your device, software fails, or other unexpected situations. Consider what data is critical to you (i.e. pictures, documents, or text messages) and have a plan in place to back it up regularly and ensure that you can recover it if you ever need to. You can use a physical storage device like an external hard drive or cloud service like OneDriveAll storage options have their advantages and disadvantages (link to file backups), choose a method you’re most likely to use consistently.  

 

AntiVirus 

Antivirus is software designed to find known viruses and malware that can have a detrimental impact to your device or data. It’s the first line of defense for your devices. If you have a laptop or desktop computer, consider using antivirus software as the basics. Visit the IT Service Desk for help with AntiVirus software. 

 

Physical Device Security 

It’s good practice to make sure your devices are with you or locked in a secure placeLock your doors if you live in a large building where items could be stolen and ensure that the friend who’s watching your device while you step away is trustworthy.   

 

Software Updates 

Computer software changes frequently. While this can be annoying and distracting, it’s important to install all software updates promptly. Often, companies release updates to address vulnerabilities in the software. By keeping your systems and software up-to-date, you help add a layer of protection and make yourself a more difficult target. 

 

Remove Unused Apps 

Apps ask for all sorts of permission to your device, location and data. Don’t download something you don’t trust and delete apps that you don’t use. Apps may be exporting data from your device without your knowledge, eating up your data and battery life in the process.  

Just like having a monthly deep-clean of your home, it is a good idea to have a regular “cleaning” of your mobile device. 

 

Limit App Permissions 

It is important for you to understand what permissions apps are seeking and how those apps might use your data and device. For example, if an app has permissions for your contact list, it can read your entire contact list. You can control what information an app has access to as well as what functions of the device the app can use by limiting permissions. This will improve your privacy as well as prevent any unintended or malicious activity from being generated by an app.

 

Secure Your Browser 

Web browsers are usually not configured to be secure by defaultAs such, they are often the target of cyber-attacks. Always be sure to keep browsers updated by turning on auto-update if it’s available. As versions get older, the chance of vulnerabilities being exploited increases. Make sure to review your privacy and security settings of your browser-of-choice before surfing the sensitive sites like your bank or your social media accounts. 

 


 Resources to remember: