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Steckbrief

Kerstin Herter: The voice against digital stress

© Maigut Fotografie

04. March 2021

The average person spends almost four hours a day on their mobile phone. However, the health risks associated with this kind of intensive media use are often ignored. It is, for instance, very challenging to the eyes, resulting in irritation, overexertion and stress. Kerstin Herter aims to draw attention to these problems. Her “STRESSFREI.digital” concept is intended to help people develop a healthier approach to the digital media.

Name: Kerstin Herter

 

Age: 41

 

Occupation: Optometrist, graduate in business administration, author

 

Website: www.stressfrei.digital

 

What is STRESSFREI.digital?

STRESSFREI.digital is a concept for reducing digital stress at work and in private life. We support companies and individuals in their efforts to cut down on digital stress and master the balance between digitalisation and health.

 

How did the idea for STRESSFREI.digital come about?

The initial impetus came from a customer who came to me for advice as an optician because she was having health problems as a result of intensive media use. At that moment, I realised that our bodies really aren’t equipped to cope with the sheer volume of screen use that comes with the digital world. Our eyes are made for a life as hunter-gatherers and not for spending our whole time staring at digital screens. Intensive media use over long periods overtaxes our eyes, and they react with irritation, overexertion and, at worst, damage to our vision. Since then, my mission as an optometrist has been to help people use digital media with awareness and in a healthy way.

 

To date, this issue has received so little attention because ...

... most people are unaware that our eyes are our number one sensory organ in the digital world. They’re often underestimated, although they’re more important than ever in the age of digitalisation! After all, whenever we surf, our eyes are always surfing with us. In other words, digitalisation is no longer just a technical milestone. It’s also becoming a health challenge.

 

Who needs to take more responsibility: we ourselves, our employers or even the policymakers?

Both employees and employers have a duty to reduce digital stress. Everyone should see this as a preventive health measure, and employers should proactively support their employees and help make everyday work stress-free. However, digital stress reduction doesn’t start in adulthood – it begins with the very youngest children. Especially when it comes to protecting children, I see policymakers as sharing in the responsibility. School students should learn mindful consumption methods to allow them to use digital media without sacrificing their health in the future.

 

What do we have to consider in the light of the increased use of digital devices?

The eye is inseparably connected with the digital world. If we want to protect our eyes, we need to make them fit for daily screen use. Even small changes to our daily routine can bring about big successes and minimise health risks. The best way to get started here is with a mixture of regular screen breaks, plenty of sunlight, consciously deciding to look elsewhere than just at the screen and remembering to blink to recharge your eyes and keep them fresh.

 

What is the specific content of your new “Digital Transparency: Healthy Screen Use” non-profit initiative?

“Digital Transparency: Healthy Screen Use” is a school-based initiative for teachers, parents and students which aims to improve the way digital media are used. Digital consumption and the associated screen time pose a major health risk, especially for children. We’re raising awareness of the issue, clarifying questions and supporting those in positions of responsibility in their efforts to tackle digital stress and ensure the long-term health of their students. As part of the initiative, we offer a free guide with valuable information and tips. This is available online at www.digitaler-durchblick.de.

 

Why is this issue more topical now than ever?

Our networked world is developing rapidly and calling on the younger generation to use media more and more frequently. Young people are often vulnerable to the maelstrom of digital consumption. In many cases, they have no choice but to stare at displays every day. Hour after hour, their eyes are glued to screens – and this can sometimes leave massive traces. Despite the best intentions, however, many teachers, parents and caregivers lack the knowledge needed to establish a digital balance. So, it’s our aim and heartfelt desire to change this with the Digital Transparency initiative.

 

Digitalisation is on an unstoppable onward march. Subsequent generations will probably be surrounded by even more screens and devices and active in even more networks. Will they even have the freedom to set limits to their own screen time?

The pulse of our age has a digital beat. Digital consumption is already having a lot of side effects, and the future prospects for our health are worrying. The degree of digitalisation is going to increase, and data glasses will soon bring the displays of the future right in front of our eyes, significantly increasing our stress levels. We can’t escape the digital world, and that’s why we need to develop a healthy digital strategy for the future, starting today. After all, as I’ve already mentioned, the eye is inseparably connected with the digital world. So, it follows that new developments will only be really positive if our eyes can keep up with the technology in performance terms.

 

What are your plans for the future of STRESSFREI.digital?

Our mission is to redefine the way we deal with digital media and to support people in their professional and private lives. Many people today lack the knowledge to straddle the fine line between modern work and awareness in their dealings with digital media. Our goal for the future is to revolutionise digital life by reaching out to all generations with our knowledge – and enabling everyone to live a stress-free digital life!

 

And the biggest challenge is...

... reconciling the needs of digital life and health.

 

Which digital product has yet to be invented?

A fully automated domestic help – like Rosie from the 80s series “The Jetsons”.

 

And which products can you do without?

E-book readers. I still love leafing through real books.

 

Which technical application will always remain a mystery for you?

The robot that solves the Rubik's Cube in 0.38 seconds. That took me half of my childhood!

 

When were you last offline for 24 hours?

This was back in 2009, on a holiday in the mountains. I had forgotten my phone charger and was forced to take a break due to lack of alternatives in the chalet.

 

A holiday without Wi-Fi: Is that a dream or a nightmare?

The first three days would be a nightmare. After that, it would be a dream!

In the #explore format we’re giving a regular voice to exciting and inspiring people from the digital scene:  To researchers, bloggers, start-up founders, entrepreneurs, hackers, and Visionaries.