Photo by @robin_rednine

How to limit your smartphone screen time

Christmas is a time for enjoying the company of family and friends. In this blog, I’d like to take a little step back from our usual mission of helping businesses grow using social media.

I’d like to focus on you and your wellbeing.

Social Brighton is an ethical company. We work hard for our clients to help them to achieve the right business results. We prefer to teach people the skills they need to do their own social media marketing through our training courses. If you have the time and resource, this is so much better than outsourcing it to an agency that doesn’t really understand your business.

We love social media, but we love real life more. So we always try to keep a balance between our online and offline lives. It’s not always easy, but it’s important.


Let’s talk about smartphones.

Do you have a smartphone? Do you love your phone? Do you hate your phone? Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. I love how it can help me get things done and entertain me on long commutes. I hate how I feel compelled to photograph every moment of a family walk. I hate how I start to feel anxious when my battery starts running low.

In a Deloitte survey last year…

38% adults surveyed said they thought they were using their phone too much.
56% of 16-24 year olds said the same.
41% think their partner is using their phone too much.

While, on the face of it, this is a bad thing, it could be viewed as a good thing. It seems that people are becoming more self-aware. You can only deal with a problem once you know it’s there.

But what is too much time on a smartphone?

The average adult uses their smartphone for 2 hours 49 minutes each day.
This rises to 4 hours for young people.

I believe it’s not the amount of time that we should be considering. For many of us, smartphones have simply replaced time spent on other devices such as tablets, laptops, PCs, typewriters or good ole’ pen and paper. They often helped us get more done in less time. I certainly don’t miss spending my lunch breaks queuing at the bank to pay a cheque in.

I think we should be reflecting more on when and where we are using our phones. Is it during the working day? At home with the family? While eating out with friends? These are the moments where smartphones can negatively affect real life relationships.


Smartphones have been around for 10 years now and the results are in.

Smartphone and laptops in bed
Photo by unsplash.com/@vheath

Reports show that smartphones can reduce the amount of sleep and the quality of sleep we get, particularly if used during the hour before bed. Research suggests that…

79% of people check their phone in the hour before going to bed
55% check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up.
26% of 16-19 yr olds respond to messages they receive in the middle of the night.

Smartphones can make us less safe. There are a growing number of traffic accidents caused by people using their phones while driving, while

11% of people admit using their phone while crossing the road (rising to 21% in 16-24 yr olds)

Smartphones can increase depression and loneliness, making us feel more isolated and less connected to people around us. Half of all UK meals taken at home or with friends are disrupted by people using their smartphones.

This is not to paint a completely negative picture of smartphones as they have so many useful features and can help us in so many ways. My wife, who moved to England from Argentina 9 years ago, has managed to maintain contact with many of her friends back home. This wouldn’t have been as possible 10 years ago.


Young people have never known anything else.

Child playing with smartphone

Young people growing up now have never known a life without smartphones, the Internet, and social media. They are the pioneering generation and need to be carefully supported as they enter online lives.

There are various ‘parental control tools’ that can be added to your child’s phone. These will help you monitor and control their usage and block inappropriate content. These are useful but only as a first step. As we know, kids are smart and will always be able to find a way around the rules the get what they want!

I know that my children are watching and learning from me every day and what I do now will impact their attitudes to technology. When I spend too much time with my head in my phone, not making eye contact, this tells them that my phone is more important than they are.

What I would suggest, and what I’m trying to do, is lead by example. Children learn habits from their parents and if they see sensible, controlled usage of phones this will become the norm for them.

If they see a parent constantly buried in their phone then they will grow up thinking that that is how they should be.


It’s time for a bit of self-analysis.

 

 

Do you use your phone right before bed, or as soon as you wake up? Do you switch your phone off at night? Have you used your phone while driving? Do you use your phone during meal times?

Most people have no idea how much they use their phones. So the first step is to have a look at this.

iOS now has an area called Screen Time. You can find it through Settings > Screen time > iPhone> Last 7 days. Android users will be able to find similar functionality.

What is your average usage per day?
How does it compare?
How many times are you picking up your phone?

There are also a range of third party apps, such as Mute, Space, Moment and Hold, which are generally free to get started on.

You can also track your usage of individual social media platforms, including Facebook with ‘Your time on Facebook’ and Instagram’s ‘Your Activity.’

Most of these tools allow you to not only monitor your activity but also set controls for your own usage. From blocking your access to (certain) apps during particular times, or setting daily time limits on specific apps.


7 ways to manage the time you spend on your phone

Monitor your usage – use the tools mentioned above to get a sense of how often you pick up your phone and what you use it for. Is this a good use of time? Does it detract from time spent with family and friends? Is it important wind-down time? What are you getting out of it? Remember, make sure your phone is working for you, not the other way around.

 

Get one of these apps – Mute, in particular, sends you notifications to highlight when you’ve been on your phone too long, or to congratulate you for a ‘digital detox.’ Much like fitness trackers, these can help you challenge yourself to develop healthy phone habits.

 

😴 Set yourself some downtime (for example 10pm-7am) where you won’t be ‘switched on’ to notifications.

 

⏰ Buy an alarm clock. Don’t sleep with your phone by your bed. Remove the temptation to check messages last thing at night or first thing in the morning.

 

Adjust your notification settings – do you really need to see every tweet straight away?

 

🥘 At dinner time or when out with friends ask everyone put their phones face down in a stack on the table – the first person to touch their phone buys the next round or does the washing up!

😃 Enjoy boredom. Let your mind wander… it’s often when we’re most creative

Smartphone wellness

This is just a small step towards switching off from our phones, resting better, enjoying life more and, most importantly, setting a good example for the young people around us.

We’ll be trying some of these ideas out over the Christmas period and hope you will too.

Thanks for reading.