How to Cut Back on Screen Time: Top 4 Recommendations

Illustration: Bryan Mayes for the Observer

There is not a formal clinical diagnosis for social media addiction, but I think it’s fair to say that many people spend way too much time on social media and may at the very least describe themselves as being “obsessed”, if not addicted.

The term Nomophobia or “NO MObile PHOne phoBIA,” however, can and has been diagnosed to hundreds if not thousands of people worldwide. The question is, why are cell phones so addicting? The short answer is that the addiction is fueled by the wave of notifications sent from social media platforms you’re involved with.

I would like to list a couple of key actions that I believe will significantly help cut back on your screen time and hopefully lead to a greater awareness of life without constant connection.

1. Turn off the notifications on your phone.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest reasons why people are addicted to their phones in the first place is caused by the excessive amount of notifications that they are alerted with each day. By disabling this option, you are removing a significant distraction that will, therefore, allow you to live in the moment without interruption (well, at least phone interruptions).

2. Track your usage.

Seeing that you’ve spent almost 35 hours of your life staring at your phone in just one week can feel like a slap on the face. My iPhone has a built feature that tracks the amount of time I spend on my phone and gives me a weekly report.

This feature not only tells me the total hours I’ve spent looking on my phone, but also provides a breakdown of which apps I use the most (no surprise that Facebook’s number one), how much time I’ve spent on each app, how many times I picked up my phone each day, and how many notifications I’ve received per day. There are also apps you can download, like Moment, that will provide you with similar reports to the ones that Apple offers.

3. Create a no-phone sleeping arrangement.

I understand for many people their job sometimes revolves around their phone which makes it feel impossible to walk away for a couple of hours or even minutes. This suggestion is one of the more challenging tasks but it’s vital towards your health and you’ll be surprised how much more sleep you’ll get each night! If you use your phone as an alarm, it may be time to revert back to an old-fashioned alarm clock.

4. Check with purpose.

Most of us wander onto social media aimlessly especially when we’re bored. To cut back, set a higher bar for logging on. Ask yourself, “Do I have a specific, positive reason for this?” If you can’t come up with one, try to resist the urge and do something that will boost your mood, like diving into an engaging book or calling a friend! (I didn’t say you could spend any time on the phone!)

I believe that these four suggested tasks will allow anyone, with or without nomophobia, to improve their current state of screen time awareness and ultimately an improvement to their lifestyle! I invite you to watch the following video as Simon Sinek does a great job describing the effects of social media/phone over-usage (especially in millennials).


One thought on “How to Cut Back on Screen Time: Top 4 Recommendations”

  1. Hi Elyssa! I found your blog on ways to combat social media addiction inspiring. I am a huge nerd of the show The Office, so when I read your blog I thought about when everyone in the office was at a trivia night. While Ryan was competing in the trivia game he was also on his phone, and the moderator told him to put it away. He opted to leave the game than to be for a short period of time without his phone. I find this example to fit in perfectly with the definition of nomophobia that you offer.

    Out of your four suggested strategies, I have already been tracking my screen time and turning off notifications for several of my social media apps. However, I do need to work on my sleeping arrangement. Checking my phone is often the last thing I do at night and the first thing I do in the morning. In order to break this habit, and based off of science I have seen regarding the impact of nighttime screen usage on sleep, I am excited to work on creating healthier sleeping arrangements. Additionally, I am the worst about checking with purpose. I will go on my phone to view something on my email, but then see a notification from instagram and end up scrolling on there for thirty minutes! So I can certainly see how purposeful screen time will help me limit the amount of my day I spend scrolling.

    I enjoyed your tips, graphics, and the very informative video clip at the end. Well done.


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