Screen time management

12 Sep 2018

Screen time is the amount of time spent on digital devices and media for fun.

The difference between screen time, as we have defined it here, and what most people think of as screen time is that last word: fun. Many adults reading this might find it difficult to calculate how much time they use looking at screens for their work, which can easily take up 9 hours of each day if you have an office job. However, screen time use is calculated based on time spent on digital devices for recreational purposes (and you would really have to love your job to consider it recreational!) such as watching a movie at the cinema or messaging in family chat groups on WhatsApp.

How much screen time is too much?

As adults, we should not need someone to tell us how much time we should spend online or on our devices. But it is important stay aware of how much time you’re spending online, and the impact this has on both your work life – making sure that your work is not suffering – and your social life – making sure that your relationships with your friends and family are not being impacted. If any of these areas are being affected, then you probably need to cut back on how much time you spend online.

The same applies to your grandchild. Be aware of how much time they spend online and the impact this has on their life, and you will know when to step in to help them.

What are the effects of too much screen time?

  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Back or other muscle pains from staying in one position for a long time
  • Being unable to sleep restfully every night
  • Constantly talking about something from your online life, such as a game or website
  • Thinking that your online activities and friends are more important than anything else
  • Disconnecting from the ‘real world’ and losing touch with your friends and family
  • Work suffering, e.g., constantly being late to work, missing deadlines, submitting work with many errors
  • Internet/game addiction

This does not mean there are no benefits to having screen time. There are websites, games, and apps that can help you meditate, gain literary skills, test your problem-solving skills, and more. However, the key is to find a good balance between your online and offline life and practice good self-control.

What can I do to reduce my screen time use?

  • Be aware of how much time you spend on your phone: apps like Quality Time, RescueTime, or Moment can help you track your online usage – not only might the numbers shock you into cutting down your time online, but the app lets you set daily limits on yourself with notifications if you go over them
  • Use an app to help: besides Moment, there are apps like Forest, Hold, and Mute that actively encourage you to cut down on how often you use their phone by rewarding you (either with virtual or real-world rewards)
  • Lock your phone with a long password: this might seem odd, but if your password is 15 numbers in a random combination, it will take you an extra two seconds to even turn on your phone, in which time you might be able to put it down
  • Keep yourself busy with other activities that do not rely on digital devices, such as active sports, playing a musical instrument, or reading a book (but not on your Kindle)
  • Put it away at home: as soon as you come home, have a part of your home – like the charging dock or on a high shelf – where you can put your phone or tablet so as not to use it for the rest of the day
  • Have specific times of day where you, and your family members, put down your devices, such as meal time or for an hour before bed

What can I do to help my grandchild reduce their screen time use?

  • Set rules for how much time they can spend looking at screens every day, like using their phone for only one hour
  • Do not let young children use their phones or watch TV to entertain them
  • Take part in activities that do not use digital devices, like bringing them out to do something as a family, playing a game together, or even just talking to them
  • Be a better role model of screen time use to show them that they don’t need to use their devices to have fun – this means no watching TV all day!