The average American is surrounded by screens almost all day – between your work computer, personal smartphone or tablet, and the living room television, screens are impossible to escape. It's not uncommon to take a break from staring at a computer screen during the work day to check in on your Instagram or Facebook feeds. Once the work day ends, millions of people will spend their evening hours binging on the next hit Netflix series and playing games on their smartphones or gaming consoles.
Recent studies have found the average smartphone user spends over 3 hours on the phone each day, with the top 20% of users spending over 4.5 hrs a day looking at their phone screen. Although technology allows us to stay connected and provides tremendous benefits, it can also have negative consequences if used excessively.
There is a great deal of research and data based on the relationship of screen time, specifically on a smartphone, and psychological well-being. A study published in 2018 reports that more hours of screen time can lead to lower levels of well-being, curiosity, self-control, and emotional stability in adolescents. Higher levels of screen time is also associated with a greater risk of developing anxiety or clinical depression.
Beyond the psychological effects, screen time can also impact physical well-being. Generally the more time you spend in front of a screen, the less active you are – leading to increased weight gain and decreased cardiovascular health. Excessive screen time can lead to vision problems such as dryness, irritation, fatigue, and blurred vision. Sitting in front of a computer, lying on the couch watching tv, or holding a smartphone can also put unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints, often leading to poor posture. Over time, this can cause headaches, neck or back pain, and unnecessary injuries in your daily life.
Although we need our computers and phones, the goal is to maintain balance. We cannot forget the importance of stepping away and spending our time on other aspects of our lives. Here are six different tips to reduce screen time:
Set or Check the Limits on your Screen Time Setting
Most smartphones have settings to monitor screen time and can even set limits on how many minutes per day you can use an App. Check what your daily average is — you may be surprised! Challenge yourself to reduce this time each day.
Turn Off Non-Essential Notifications
Sometimes we look at our phones simply because we got a notification. If it is a non-essential App, limit or turn off notifications.
Delete Time Wasting Apps
Look through your phone and delete the apps that are mindless time wasters. This will free up a ton of your unnecessary screen time!
Keep Your Phone Out of Your Bedroom
Set an alarm clock! Spending time on your phone late at night can reduce the overall quality of sleep. Also, spending the first 15 minutes of the morning on your phone can set a negative mindset for the rest of your day. When possible, keep the phone out of your bedroom.
Get Outside and Exercise
Give your eyes a break from the screen and get some Vitamin D by going on a quick walk outside. Aim to exercise for 30-60 minutes each day by going to your favorite gym, group fitness class, or go on a run with friends.
Spend the first fifteen minutes of the day meditating and setting a positive intention for the day. This will not only improve your mood, it can also help combat some of the psychological aspects of screen time such as anxiety and emotional stability.
I know that it isn't easy to cut back on screen time like this, especially with so many of us spending 8-10 hours of our day behind a computer for work. For me, these tips are all about cutting back on unnecessary screen time – like the time you spend scrolling around social media in the only time you have free in the middle of your work day, or the TV you watch while you try to fall asleep. It's so important to take time to unplug and let your brain relax, especially if you're someone who already spends half the day staring at a monitor.