Strategies to help decrease screen time

Following on from the previous blog which gave a clear indication that there are unhealthy consequences for too much screen for both children and adults, the next question you might be asking is how to limit and minimise screen time?  Here are some suggestions of how to reduce your screen time to ensure you are physically and psychologically healthy.

  1. Most people have heard of “TV dinners” as they are a familiar occurrence in some households, but it doesn’t hurt to use this time to give your eyes a rest and maybe do some old fashioned “talking to each other” whilst you enjoy your meal. Banning screens during dinner time is not only beneficial for your relationships but focusing on what you are eating can also help with digestion.
  2. Only check work emails during work time. Some may feel pressured to check emails to stay ahead of what’s going on at work, but this increases your screen time exposure and can raise stress levels as you aren’t getting enough down time. 
  3. No screens allowed in the bedroom or bathroom. Whether you are in your bedroom or the bathroom, don’t allow yourself to use screens in these rooms as it’s too tempting to use them for long periods.  Allowing screen use to occur in only one room can also help with limiting the opportunity to use screens. This includes charging your phone in the bedrooms as this can also tempt you to check for messages throughout the night and research has shown that looking at phone screens before bed can disrupt sleep. 
  4. Limit computer socialising by setting a time limit on your screen use for social media. Hours can be wasted on social media sites if your aren’t careful and setting a time limit can help minimise the possibility of this happening to you and protect your eyes from being strained.
  5. Scrolling through social media posts seems to be a common default for people to do when they are bored. If this sounds familiar to you try having an alternate activity to do when you’re feeling bored such as reading a book, taking the dog for a walk, learning another language or musical instrument. 
  6. If you have to spend a lot of time in front of screens try doing some exercise whilst in front of them and/or take regular breaks. Some simple stretches can be done whilst in front of screen and can relieve tension from sitting in the same position for long periods.  Doing exercise can also help balance the effects of screen use as exercising releases the ‘feel good’ hormones in the body and increases muscle tone. 
  7. To discourage screen use for children, you can put non-screen activities (books, puzzles, games, toys etc) in rooms where there are screens. For older children don’t allow them to watch TV whilst doing their homework and make screen time a privilege that kids needs to earn and is only allowed once homework and chores are finished.  Also, parents can set a good example, but not being only your phone constantly especially when your children are asking for your attention. 
  8. Increase exposure to sunlight, especially in the morning as this can improve your mood and have more restful sleep which can negate some of the effect from over using screens.
  9. Whilst watching screens the senses are being bombarded and saturated and this weakens the right brain. Try doing creative activities to stimulate the right brain which can also help build problem solving skills.   
  10. Tone down the brightness level on screens, for televisions choose the lower brightness and contrast settings as this will help decrease blue light exposure which blocks melatonin (the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle).  

In today’s world it may be hard to get away from screens altogether and in some situations you really need to have access to a screen (especially a mobile phone or a computer), but you can incorporate these suggestions to help reduce your screen time and protect you and your family’s physical and psychological wellbeing. 

 

Written by: Kimberley Aguet Virtual Psychologist – Counsellor