Reducing screen time – 3 Tips & My experience

    For many of us, the first thing we wake up to and the last thing we see before we sleep is our cell phone.Technology is a means of several of our day-to-day tasks and interactions, thus deeply integrating itself into the lives of many. I can safely say technology has been my best friend through this period of shelter-in-place. From checking my email first thing in the morning, to scrolling through my social media feed in the afternoon, to ending the day with my latest Netflix favorite, my phone or laptop always demands my attention. Technology’s role has even expanded beyond recreation and is an essential tool for completing my tasks— whether it’s attending meetings and classes via Zoom, typing out my assignments, or using my editing software to meet my weekly quota of video postings. However, both despite and because of modern technology’s omnipresence, it is increasingly important to schedule time away from our screens and take a break from the virtual world in order to protect our mental and physical health. 

    Distancing Myself from Technology

    After being unpleasantly surprised by the amount of screen-time I’ve spent on my phone (which was over four hours, according to an app I installed called StayFree), I took it upon myself to immediately schedule time away from screen and strictly minimize my mindless scrolling to one hour (for recreational purposes, excluding my use of screen time to accomplish my tasks for the day). For the next week, I not only enforced an upper limit of an hour of phone activity, but also scheduled technology-free time in which I tried to interact more with my present world. Now I will discuss some of the positive benefits I discovered as a result of this. First and foremost, I felt like a small weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I could go about each day knowing that I wouldn’t waste any more time crouched over a small screen, consuming information that would be forgotten within the hour. I consumed less and created more. As I mentioned earlier, reducing my phone time to one hour cleared my schedule and motivated me to incorporate all sorts of new activities into my day. These little hobbies, such as trying new recipes, skateboarding, and journaling gave me joy and helped me balance my day. Simply put, I felt happier. I experienced a greater level of self-awareness and awareness of my surroundings because I had more time to be present and keep my mind in the moment instead of someplace else (as social media tends to enable). Along with less time spent looking into the lives of others in my feed and more time dedicated towards myself, I felt liberated from certain unhealthy emotions that had become the norm. For example, the feeling that my own life was not as interesting as the ones portrayed on Instagram.

    Understanding my Tendencies

    Early on in the week, I realized it was a habit, almost like muscle memory, to pick up my cell phone whenever I sat down. And not for any specific purpose either; I wasn’t intentionally reaching for my phone, not so I could Google something or send out a text. It was just a habit for me that I developed over the years. It seemed that my mind had correlated downtime with scrolling through my phone, similar to the way I correlated waking up in the mornings to reaching for my fully charged phone. Throughout the week, I spent a lot more time outdoors, and this alone opened my life up to a multitude of unrealized benefits. The extra time I created by distancing myself from technology surprised me, enabling me to pick up hobbies that I previously dismissed by the excuse of “not having enough time.” By the end of the week, I was by no means a changed person, but I did notice a few differences in my mindset, emotions, and productivity. The visual below shows how picking your phone can set off a chain reaction of multiple increments of screen time that heavily outlast one single sitting of screen time. A single pick up can set off a chain reaction: 

    Establishing Healthy Boundaries Moving Forward

    Although I originally intended for this to be a week long challenge, I am continuing to limit my screen time and am continuing to experience the benefits. With the growth of technology in day to day life, what were once in-person transactions are now conducted through our devices. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize the need for and to actively make time to experience and engage with the natural world around us. While roaming the internet may have integrated itself into our list daily activities, let this be a reminder that our lives aren't getting any longer, and that several of our moments are here waiting to be experienced.

    Helpful Tips for Reducing Screen Time

    According to a 2019 study conducted by eMarketer,  the average person in the United States spends nearly 3 hours a day on their cell phones. With this statistic, as well as all our attachments to the world within our screens, cutting our screen time into a third of what we are used to may seem like a daunting task. There are many helpful tips however, that helped me stick to my one-hour limit of screen time. 

    1. Get help through phone apps: 

    There are several free apps and services that can assist you by tracking your time spent as well as setting limits on specific apps—the one I used was called StayFree, but there are several other free apps out there. 

    2. Put Tech away when you Eat 

    Another helpful tip is to cut out the habit of eating in front of the screen. Over the past year, I've become increasingly used to squeezing in my meals into a work session or pairing it with an episode of a T.V. series, but there are several reasons why this isn't good for you're health. Cutting out this habit alone greatly reduced my screen time. I also got used to creating physical distance from my tech, powering them off and placing them in a different room to reduce my temptation. 

    3. Adjust Your Phone Settings

    Another tip to ease the temptation of checking your phone is to disable all unimportant and unnecessary notifications— you'll still be able to check them later if not on the spot! 

    • M D M D :

      I so relate to this! It feels like a constant decision to always be mindful of my screentime. Like you said, it's a habit and a hard one to break. What helped me most was deleting unnecessary apps from my phone, even the ones I love like Instagram. This post is such a good reminder—thanks for sharing! 

      3 years ago 
      • Bridgette  G Bridgette G :

        I agree! We get so used to be on our phones that it just becomes a mindless activity. I'm glad you were able to find some helpful tips from the post! Keep up your efforts! 

        3 years ago 
    • Epsita M Epsita M :

      This is such an informative post! I can relate to it. Thank you for this reminder post <3 

      3 years ago 
    • Tessie G Tessie G :

      This is a great and informative read! I've done this myself and took a break for at least a week and honestly, it felt good. Sometimes we all need to do self-care and not care about social media. I will do this periodically. Thanks for this  

      3 years ago 
      • Bridgette  G Bridgette G :

        i agree! social media can have toxic effects that we sometimes all could use a break from. Glad you enjoyed article!

        3 years ago 
    • Valerie N Valerie N :

      Great post! I'm glad reducing your screentime brought you more happiness. I must admit that picking up my phone has become muscle memory for me, as well. I will check my phone, put it down, then pick it up again a few seconds later. Even when I don't have any notifications! I really need to work on reducing my screentime. Thanks for sharing your experience!   

      3 years ago 
      • Bridgette  G Bridgette G :

        thanks so much! i totally relate about the muscle memory part. it's surely a tricky process, best of luck!

        3 years ago 
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