Our over-use of technology finally seems to be headed towards a breaking point. As awareness grows of the damaging effects of technology not only on us but on the younger generation, even the people behind the very apps that rule our lives are starting to speak out against them. "The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works," says Chamath Palihapitiya, who was formerly vice president for user growth at Facebook and worked at the company between 2007 and 2011. "It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other."

For parents, the potential perils of our phone usage are especially pertinent - while we may tell ourselves that our behaviour is ours to change whenever we want, the consequences for the young impressionable minds around us could be more far reaching.

The message has been drummed home loudly to those of us living in Dubai by an arresting advertising campaign from the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, which shows an image of an unhappy child watching her parents on their smartphones, above a citation of Federal Law No3/ 2016 of Child Protection - the implication being that in ignoring your child in favour of your phone you could actually be breaking the emirate's child abuse law.

Read more: How UAE parents are harming their kids without even realising

Clinical psychologist Dr Rose Logan from The LightHouse Arabia says it's our responsibility as parents to model healthy technology use. She says, "Having a screen in front of your face at all hours of the day sends a clear message to our children: 'You are not important, I have better things to do.'"

It's also making us less happy, says clinical psychologist and managing director of The Light House Arabia, Dr Saliha Afridi: "In a bid for efficiency, we are starting to lose our sanity... We are trying to be productive every second of the day. But our brain needs calm and reflection... We don't even make phone calls anymore because it seems like too much of an engagement. Instead we prefer to communicate on WhatsApp and Facebook. But there is no looking in each other's eyes to read between the lines, no comfort from the other person's voice. Basically we give up our humanity."

We asked Dr Saliha to help us shape a Digital Detox Challenge that might work for parents - why not try it for yourself?

Tip: Before taking part in the digital detox challenge we recommend downloading a phone usage app such as Moment in order to track your phone usage before and after the challenge.

Day 1: Engage with people, not gadgets

The task: Keep your phone in another room when eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, with or without your children. If your children are eating but you are not, sit down and engage with them, without the temptation of your phone nearby.

Bonus challenge: Carve out a conscious 5-10 minutes per day to really engage one-on-one with your child in a specific (screen-free) activity; it could mean playing with toys, doing a puzzle, or reading together. If you have more than one child, try to dedicate a batch of really engaged time to each of them.

Dr Saliha says: During mealtimes especially, you should be engaging with your food and making conversation with those around you, not checking emails. Ditching your phone will give you the quality time you crave with friends and family.

Day 2: Keep your downtime empty

The task: Do not use your mobile phone while you are waiting around, whether you're in line at the grocery store, stopped at the traffic lights, cooking dinner, or the kids are busy playing, for instance. Instead, look around and observe your surroundings.

Bonus challenge: During empty moments, resist the urge to reach for your phone every two seconds. Challenge yourself to see how few times you can check your phone throughout the day. Do a mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes, three times a day (in the morning, midway through the day and before you sleep). You can prep for this in advance by researching a simple meditation exercise to use or downloading a podcast or app that you can listen to without the need to interact with your device.

Dr Saliha says: When you have time out to simply be, with no distractions, don't try to fill it up by frantically checking your devices. Having regular moments of downtime is essential for mental and emotional wellbeing and for keeping stress at bay.

Read more: "Why I ditched the UAE Mummy Blogger Brigade - and have never looked back" 

Day 3: Switch off overnight

The task: Turn off all your electronics and Wi-Fi overnight - aim for 8pm to 8am.

Bonus challenge: Carry this on for the rest of the week and push yourself to see how early you can switch off each night. Use the time to reignite a favourite pastime, play a board game, or settle down and read a book.

Dr Saliha says: Ideally, evenings should be a time to relax and unwind from any stresses from the day but if you're still checking your electronics this simply won't happen. While it's OK to catch up on your favourite TV series occasionally, try to avoid screens and aim for more calming activities that don't need plugging in.

Day 4: Crack down on social media

The task: Do not engage in social media for the day.

Bonus challenge: Carry this on for the entire week and delete all social media applications from your phone - that includes WhatsApp. In addition, put a self-imposed ban on taking pictures during two social events. Instead let yourself be absorbed in the moment through all your senses so you can take mental images.

Dr Saliha says: Many of us are guilty of living our lives through social media but this often means we're missing out on richer experiences. Not everything we do needs to be shared - keep some of it just for yourself and it'll feel more special.

Read more: 5 ways to keep children safe online

Day 5: Focus on quality communication

The task: Don't use WhatsApp, email, or text message to communicate with friends and family (although you can still use it for work). If you need to communicate with your nearest and dearest, call them or write them a note.

Bonus challenge: Carry on for the rest of the week but make sure you call a loved one every day to check in and say "hello".

Dr Saliha says: We're so used to instant messaging that it's easy to bombard those closest to you with a stream of consciousness. Help yourself - and them - cut down on information overload by scaling back to what's most important. If you call them once a day, for instance, you'll focus on offering them just the highlights instead of every little detail of your life.

Day 6: Break the click-happy email habit

The task: Only check your emails on your laptop or computer (not your phone) three times a day - morning, afternoon and early evening. Leave an out-of-office response if necessary after the day is over.

Bonus challenge: Don't check your emails at any other times for the rest of the week, including over the weekend. If you worry about people expecting a reply, make sure your out-of-office is switched on from 6pm on Thursday to 8am on Sunday.

Dr Saliha says: It's so important to take a break from emails during leisure time. While it may not be realistic all the time - if you have a big project on at work, for instance - reclaiming your free time is essential for your wellbeing and, in turn, you may find you're more productive when you are at work.

Day 7: Rediscover the power of pen and paper

The task: Call three people and tell them you love them and why.

Bonus challenge: Write five cards or letters to people you love expressing gratitude and either hand-deliver them or post them.

Dr Saliha says: By the end of the week you should have broken most of your electronic habits, freeing up more spare time to focus on the things that really matter. Writing down your thoughts and feelings and sharing them with your friends and family can be cathartic and helps you focus your mind on what's important. 

Read more: Are the UAE’s high-maintenance mums creating a nation of kidults?

How using your phone affects your kids

 A University of Michigan study found that the reduction in verbal and non-verbal interactions that's connected to frequent parental phone use could have a damaging effect on children's linguistic and emotional development, since face-to-face interactions are the primary way in which children learn.

A study published in the journal Child Development, found that technology-based interruptions - which they dub 'technoference' - in parent-child interactions is associated with greater incidence of poor behaviour in children, who act out in order to get their parent's attention.

An animal-based study published in Translational Psychiatry found that distracted parental attention to newborns (who you might think aren't even aware of you using your phone) resulted in detrimental effects on babies' development, especially their ability to process pleasure. Researchers said this could have potential clinical implications.

Read the other side of the argument: Why expat mums are addicted to their phones (and how it can actually make us better mothers)