3 Tips for Healthier Screen Time

In our Google Drive-saved, WiFi-fueled, and social media-shaped era, it can be pretty hard to keep our entire lives from being consumed by screens. According to a 2016 study conducted by Nielsen, adults spent an average of 10 hours and 39 minutes each day using electronic devices for media intake in the first quarter of that year.  To put that into perspective, that’s about 44% of a 24-hour period and about 67% of a 16-hour day, allowing for the optimal and recommended 8 hours of sleep. I’d wager that the average screen time has increased over the past few years. Media on all different kinds of screens continues to innovatively evolve and capture our imaginations. Screen time can be a great thing, but we cannot allow it to dominate our schedules or our psyches. Its pervasive clickbait power has to be checked.  During the current COVID crisis especially, we need to be intentional about not being zombified by overexposure to our screens. Otherwise, we’ll more or less become cyborgs, unable to navigate our world or ourselves without a screen nearby. Let’s make sure that does NOT happen, being sure to position screen time as one part of our multifaceted lives. Here are three tips to refine your screen time by establishing boundaries for when and how you use it: . 

1. Keep your cell phone and computer out of your bedroom. 

I personally need to start taking this advice. My phone is one of the first things I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before I fall asleep. I often find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media or trying to beat my DoodleJump high score. Because of this habit, I probably fall asleep an hour or so later than I ought to. Don’t be like me. According to experts at the Sleep Foundation, using electronic devices can overstimulate you and delay your body’s internal clock, throwing your circadian rhythm out of whack.With an unstable circadian rhythm, you’re more likely to develop some form of insomnia, making it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and/or unable return to sleep upon waking up too early. Keeping your phone and computer out of your bedroom can help you make the space a dedicated safe haven for sleeping. And since some people counter argue that they need their phones to set a wake-up alarm, (It’s me. I’m “some people.”), it may be worthwhile to have a regular old-fashioned alarm clock to help establish this much-needed boundary.  

 2. Collect data on your screen time consumption. 
Let’s face it. Life can be demanding and hectic and much of what we do these days requires a screen. We may not be able to put our devices away because of our jobs, social obligations, etc. at different stages of our lives. Some of those things are out of our direct control. With that being said, there are some components of our digital engagement that we can determine for ourselves. Gathering data on your screen time consumption, which is often logged on smartphones, can help you evaluate whether or not you are using your screen time in necessary and/or healthy ways. For example, according to the analytics on my phone, last week, I averaged 6 hours and 25 minutes of screen time a day. That is not good. Fortunately, that is a 16% decrease from the previous week since I’m trying to hold myself accountable to screen time reduction. Looking at more of the data,  I also realize that I spent much more time on social media than I should have. Whoops.  My goal this week is to cut back on social media and to set explicit parameters for myself to do so. Recently, social media has felt like a vortex of information and tension. And while I still want to stay abreast of the times, I know I need to create space for myself away from social media for the sake of my mental health.  My overall screen time may not go down due to work research, but I’ll be using my screen time more responsibly. 
3. Turn off your devices. 
It sounds easy, but taking some time off from your devices can be a huge ask. For me, my screen time can help me feel connected to the thriving sphere of information-packed cyberspace. Being in the know can feel good. Other times, it is a welcome escape from real life things I don’t feel like dealing with. But as of late, I’ve found that I’ve been happiest when I take a break from my screens and spend time with my family, read a paperback book, write in my journal, meditate, or go for a walk. I’m starting to set boundaries by choosing Sundays to unplug as much as possible. Perhaps picking a day of the week can help you, too. 

Please know that each tip that I just gave to you is something that I am trying to actively implement in my own life. Screen time can be a very difficult thing to navigate and balance. This is not to say that screen time is bad even in the slightest. It just needs to be enjoyed in moderation like all other good things. We just have to be careful that cyberspace doesn’t keep us away from the joys of the real world.

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