Have you ever considered how much time you spend online? It bothers me hugely, I often feel as if I am a slave to my mobile phone and I am constantly trying to get time away from my digital devices. If you are looking to reduce your screen time too, in this blog post I share ideas and resources to support your digital wellbeing.
According to the findings of a study conducted at the University of California, the average adult can now only focus for three minutes at a time and it takes us twenty minutes to regain focus, while a 2022 survey by Uswitch found the average screen time among UK adults is now five hours per day, in addition to any screen related work and research at the University of London showed that when we are bombarded with distractions and notifications, such as incoming emails and calls, we lose on average 10 IQ points, even if we keep on working — this is the equivalent of not having slept the night before and twice as much as you would lose from smoking some pot.
Other issues include:
- Less sleep and poorer sleep quality
Our bodies are designed to go to bed when it gets dark and wake when it is light. Staring at our phones before bed or during the night upsets our circadian rhythms (physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a twenty four hour cycle), as the brain is woken up by the exposure to blue light from the phone screen, upsetting the body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Consequently you may find it harder to fall asleep or experience wakefulness during the night.
It also affects our relationships — did you know this is known as phubbing (snubbing someone in favour of a phone.)
- Physical health
Spending long hours on a mobile phone can lead to all manner of physical health problems, such as eye strain, neck and back ache — and as it is largely a sedentary activity, it increases the chance of weight gain and obesity. Research studies have found that the sedentary nature of screen usage also puts us at higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
- Mental health and lethargy
And while using digital devices is a sedentary activity, our minds are most definitely not at rest when using them, rather they are concentrating hard processing whatever information they see on the screen, tiring our minds, resulting in loss of concentration and a decrease in productivity. The effects of too much screen time on mental health are even more serious when it comes to adolescents and teenagers. Excessive screen time in children has been found to negatively affect learning abilities, while teenagers who engage in excessive screen time typically display a higher risk of depression and other related disorders.
- And there’s more
Comparison syndrome, imposter syndrome, consumption of too much negative news or fake news, loneliness and lack of self esteem can all be triggered by too much screen time.
Ways to reduce screen time
So now you know the impacts of too much screen time, how do you go about reducing it?
- Try keeping your phone out of sight, on the other side of a room or in a different room to where you are — out of sight is out of mind.
- Turn off notifications on all your devices and switch your phone to airplane mode — by putting your phone in airplane mode, you eliminate any vibrating, beeping or lighting up that may distract you. Alternatively you can use a blocking app to help you focus and block distractions.
- Turn your phone display to black and white as it is less appealing to your brain (I recently did this by mistake and without the candy coloured icons, my phone looked incredibly dull.)
- If you reply to emails immediately people will come to expect you to always reply immediately, so set an auto response, for example ‘for digital wellbeing I only check my emails twice a day.’
- If you find someones posts annoying or distressing, mute or unfollow them — use social media for its benefits but don’t let it tire you out.
- Use a time tracking app on your phone to tell you how much time you spend in front of a screen.
- Make screen time active time — when you do spend time in front of a screen, aim to do something active too.
- Stop using your digital devices during social occasions and ask others to do the same.
- If writing an email or text message is taking too long, trying telephoning instead.
- Avoid bringing work home and keep digital devices away from your bedroom, to remove the temptation to work or scroll through your social media feed before bed.
Sources and further information
- Active Health: How to reduce screen time in the digital age
- Digital Tends: The best screen-time apps to get your digital life under control
- Entrepeneur: Why you are losing 10 IQ points every time this happens
- Frontiers: Excessive smartphone use Is associated with health problems in adolescents and young adults
- Google: Digital Wellbeing
- Mobile: How mobile phone usage can impact mental health
- University of California: The cost of interrupted work: more speed and stress
- Uswitch: Screen time report 2022
- Zapier: The 8 best apps to help you focus and block distractions in 2023
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