Image: Mint Images for Getty
Managing screen time is not just for kids. In fact, how can we expect our children not to have meltdowns when we limit their tablets and gaming when we ourselves have a hard time controlling our scrolling?
“While teens are known to have less impulse control than adults, we are all susceptible to the lure of our phones and while the convenience can be helpful at times, too much of a good thing can negatively impact our mood and productivity,” says Dr. Rebecca Jackson, VP of programs and outcomes at Brain Balance.
Screen time continues to be associated with decreased attention span and behavior problems – especially among teens – and managing and monitoring technology usage becomes harder as they become increasingly engrained in our routines. Jackson goes on to highlight that tablets, laptops and phones can further be a hindrance for friendships and mental wellbeing because the constant connection and awareness can add unnecessary stress and pressure.
With that in mind we chatted with Jackson about her tips for creating healthy habits when it comes to technology usage.
Create a technology-free bedtime routine to lead to better quality sleep
“Spending the hour prior to sleep avoiding the light and distraction from your phone helps to signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.”
Devices should be turned off or out of the bedrooms at night (or at the very least in sleep mode)
“We’re all susceptible to the ding of our phones, and even if we resist the impulse to check the screen, that sound can be disruptive to quality sleep. Turning the phone to sleep mode or having it in a different room will remove both the distraction and temptation. This may require buying an old-school alarm clock instead of using the phone to wake up (it’s worth it).”
Image: Noel Hendrickson for GettyRemove phones and computer alerts during focused work time
“Not all tasks require the same degree of attention and focus, and it’s important to remember that our focus is a finite thing – we run out eventually. The distraction of a screen that lights up or dings with each incoming message will pull attention away from the task at hand every time, draining that limited resource. When working on an important task that is time sensitive or requires thought and focus it can be helpful to silence all devices and place them face down and away from arm’s length. Otherwise, it’s too easy to grab the phone to scroll mindlessly when the brain hits a stuck point.”
Track your total screen time usage and how you use it
“If you don’t already do this you will most likely be shocked. The minutes here and there add up quickly. Creating a routine of monitoring your usage daily will bring awareness to the habits you have developed over time. Your phone also tracks the number of times per day you pick up your phone. Being aware of how many times you grab your phone while at a stop light, watching a show, or in the midst of work can show you opportunities for habits that could be improved.”
Setting screen time limits is not 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 goals for weekly usage based on categories. For example you can try to reduce social media time by 20% this week.”
Be mindful of your mood prior to scrolling
“Are you using your phone as an escape or procrastination tactic? If you’re already feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or negative time on your phone may work against you.”
Balance screen time with physical activity
“If you are working to reduce your social media screen time usage, balance that goal with increasing your physical activity. Go for a walk, run, yoga or even just stretch. Processing large amounts of visual information quickly can fatigue the brain, which in turn can result in a more negative mood, whereas exercise has the opposite impact.”
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