Too much screen time not enough real time? These tools and apps can help …
Most of us would put our hands up to say that we spend too much time on our phones, and it’s becoming very clear that increased screen time can have negative effects on our mental health. Throughout the last year we have been bombarded with daily numbers of positive Covid-19 cases, ICU capacity and worrying statistics. It’s time to leave that behind in 2021. “Doom scrolling” is the act of consuming a large amount of negative news and it’s something we are all guilty of and it can be detrimental to our mental health.
To tackle phone addiction and limit screen time, Apple introduced a setting called Screen Time to the iPhone that shows users exactly how much time they have spent on their phone (and a breakdown of time spent on each app) at the end of each day. For Android devices, a similar feature was launched called Digital Wellbeing which disables apps after a certain time and has an option to turn your screen to grey at night to remind you to put your phone down. Individual social media apps including Instagram followed suit, offering users the option to see how much time they have spent using the app each day.
According to Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey 2020, the average Irish smartphone user picks up their phone more than 50 times per day, a third of people check their phone within the first five minutes of waking every morning and 70% within the first 30 minutes. A positive finding was that many respondents recognised that they spend too much time on their phones – if this is you, read on.
Whether you find yourself checking work e-mails out of hours or wasting time mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed, we could all do with a bit of headspace and a forced quitting time from our phones could be the answer. With our new work from home routines, the separation between work and downtime has decreased. Work has become even more accessible and harder to switch off from.
If you want to tackle the issue head on, there are certain tools and apps that you can activate that will notify you when you’ve reached your daily browsing limit and even ones that will lock you out of them completely.
Turn off notifications
For a start, you should turn off push notifications on social media apps. Do you really need to be instantly alerted when someone likes your Instagram post, retweets your Tweet, or pins something from your Pinterest board? Notifications for all non-essential apps (phone, message and maybe WhatsApp depending on how/why you use it) should really be turned off at all times. You’ll be surprised how much freer you feel without a barrage of notifications on your screen each time you pick your phone up.
Set daily limits
Once you’ve identified which apps are taking most of your time, set yourself daily time limits for social media apps using Screen Time on the iPhone or Digital Wellbeing on Android. Once you’ve reached your daily limit you will be notified by a pop up on your screen and you can extend this setting to lock you out of the apps completely once you’ve reached your limit.
Nightly wind down
Apple allows you to select apps that are always accessible – like phone and message – and after a certain hour (of your choice) greys out all the other apps to encourage you not to access them. On Android phones, Wind Down mode features a greyscale option which essentially turns your phone screen black and white. A gentle signal that it’s time to switch off.
Delete social media apps
If you want to take more extreme actions, delete social media apps from your phone completely. This will force you to access them through browser which is more time consuming and less user-friendly, and will prevent you from accessing them so routinely.
Replace with helpful apps
Mindfulness and meditation apps can make the practices more accessible to beginners. Both meditation and mindfulness can help lower stress levels and help you get a better night’s sleep. Headspace and Calm, which offer guided meditation practices focusing on breathing, sleep and relaxation, are two apps to look into first. As little as ten minutes a day can help.
Take time out
Sometimes the physical act of separation is what you need. Leave your phone at home while you go for a walk. Signal the end of your working day by switching off your laptop and putting your phone away, try reading a book or journalling to wind down. When you get your morning coffee, engage with the staff instead of standing in a queue of customers with their heads in their phones. You’ll be amazed what some time away from the screen can do.
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