Americans are spending more time in front of electronic screens. Whether it’s a smartphone, a laptop computer or a television screen, some studies estimate that we spend as much as 12 hours per day in front of one screen or another.
And it’s happening for a reason. The technology we use every day is specifically designed by tech companies to keep our attention on their apps, websites, devices and social media platforms. Experts agree that all of this consumption might not be good for us.
A large body of scientific evidence has linked tech addiction — especially smartphone dependency, problematic internet use and gaming — with anxiety and depression. Not only can the anxiety and depression brought on by tech addition result in sleep problems, but also the artificial “blue” light emitted by computer screens and cellphones is known to suppress the production of melatonin, resulting in sleeplessness.
There are things you can do to help limit your screen time, and in turn, protect your health. If you believe that you use your devices a little too much, consider these five things you can do to approach technology more mindfully:
Log out: Social media platforms keep you logged in so that it’s easier for you to access their platform with the push of just one button, without even really thinking about it. When you are done using an app or a social media site, take the time to go to the top of the screen and click the “log out” button. This will require you to enter your user name and password the next time you want to log on, which will give you a couple of seconds to be mindful and consider, “Do I really need to go online and check this site right now?”
Use tech to fight tech: This might seem counterintuitive, but there are apps that can help you become aware of how much you use your smartphone, and awareness often is the first step in making a habit change. Apple users can use Screen Time, an app that lets you discover how often you use your phone, where you spend your time and which apps you use the most. You might be surprised as to how many hours of the day you spend with your phone in your hand.
Set limits: Consider setting limits such as not using your phone in the car, at the dining table, while waiting in line or while talking with other people. If you’re having coffee or lunch with someone, agree to put the phones away unless you really need to look something up or put your next meeting on the calendar. When you’re in line at the grocery store, there’s a strong tendency to fill the time by looking at something on your phone, but take a moment to leave your phone in your pocket and see if you can just be present.
Turn off notifications: Allowing notifications essentially gives your phone permission to interrupt you at any time of the day or night, under any circumstance. Try turning off all notifications except phone calls. If your work requires you to respond promptly to some emails, consider using an email app that allows you to assign VIP status to certain people so that you’ll only receive notifications from them.
Delete social media apps from your phone: For many people, this is the “nuclear option” but sometimes the most effective to claiming your time back from social media. You don’t have to delete your social media profiles, but consider deleting all the apps from your phone and accessing them from a laptop for a certain amount of time each day. Having a phone without the biggest temptations will simplify your tech life.
For more information on how to change your technology habits, visit the Center for Humane Technology at humanetech.com.