Managing screen time can be easier than you think


Image: Mint Images for Getty

Managing screen time isn’t just for kids. Indeed, how can we expect our kids not to have a meltdown by restricting their tablets and games when we ourselves are struggling to control our scrolling?

“Although teenagers are known to have less impulse control than adults, we are all susceptible to the lure of our phones, and while the convenience can sometimes be helpful, too much of a good thing can negatively affect our mood and productivity,” says Dr. Rebecca Jackson , Vice President of Programs and Outcomes at Brain Balance.

Screen time continues to be associated with reduced attention spans and behavioral issues — particularly among teenagers — and managing and monitoring technology usage is becoming more difficult as it becomes increasingly integrated into our routines. Jackson goes on to emphasize that tablets, laptops and phones can be a barrier to friendships and mental well-being, as the constant connection and awareness can cause unnecessary stress and pressure.

With that in mind, we spoke to Jackson about her tips for making healthy habits when using technology.

Create a tech-free bedtime routine to lead to better sleep quality

“If you spend the hour before bed avoiding the light and the distraction of your phone, you’re signaling your brain that it’s time to sleep.”

Devices should be turned off or removed from bedrooms at night (or at least in sleep mode)

“We are all susceptible to our phones ringing, and even if we resist the impulse to look at the screen, that noise can disrupt a good night’s sleep. Putting the phone on sleep mode or moving it to another room removes both the distraction and the temptation. This may require buying an old fashioned alarm clock instead of using the phone to wake up (worth it).”

Image: Noel Hendrickson for GettyRemove phone and computer alerts during busy work hours

“Not all tasks require the same level of attention and focus, and it’s important to remember that our focus is a finite thing — we eventually run out. The distraction of a screen that flashes or rings with every incoming message each time diverts attention from the task at hand and drains that limited resource. If you are working on an important task that is time sensitive or requires thought and focus, it can be helpful to mute all devices and place them face down and within arm’s length. Otherwise, it’s too easy to pick up the phone to mindlessly scroll when the brain hits a deadlock.”

Track all your screen time usage and how you use it

“If you are not already doing so, you will most likely be shocked. The minutes here and there quickly add up. Creating a routine to monitor your usage on a daily basis will increase awareness of the habits you have developed over time. Your phone also tracks how many times you pick up your phone per day. Being aware of how often you reach for your phone at a stop light, while watching a show, or in the middle of work can reveal opportunities for habits that could be improved.”

Setting screen time limits isn’t just for kids

“Setting screen limits for frequently used apps can be a helpful reminder to keep you on track with your usage goals. Set weekly usage goals based on categories. For example, try reducing your social media time by 20% this week.”

Before scrolling, pay attention to your mood

“Are you using your phone as an escape or postponement tactic? If you’re already feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or negative, time on your phone can be working against you.”

Balance screen time with physical activity

“As you work to reduce your screen time on social media, balance that goal with an increase in your physical activity. Go for a walk, run, do yoga or just stretch. Processing large amounts of visual information quickly can tire the brain, which in turn can lead to a more negative mood, while exercise has the opposite effect.”

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