During the confinement, you were taped to your smartphone night and day, to telework, keep up to date with the latest information or just fill the boredom? Don’t worry, you weren’t the only one. The time the French spent on their phones in April 2020 jumped by 47% compared to April 2019. At a time when our first instinct is to scroll mechanically on social networks to take care of the hands and mind, containment could only amplify this modern addiction.
But today, containment is (hopefully) behind us, and you’re having a hard time losing that bad habit. However, reducing screen time has many advantages: it reduces stress, feeling tired, and sometimes even migraines. And as a bonus, who says less time on his smartphone says more free time to do something else. In order to reduce your screen time, you can follow these simple and effective tips. Promised, you don’t have to go into an expensive digital detox or burn your smartphone.
Here are tips to reduce your screen time on your smartphone after containment:
Measuring screen time
It is well known, to solve a problem, the first step is to realize that we have one. To do this, both iOS and Android have built-in screen time calculation tools. On iPhone (with iOS 12 or a newer version), go to “Settings” and then “Screen Time” (purple icon with an hourglass). On Android (only from Android 9.0), the tool is in “Settings” and then “Digital Wellness and Parental Control.”
These tools can quantify in hours and minutes the time you spend each day and every week on this and that application. The most used apps are then grouped into categories (social networks, games, messages, etc.). Activating this tool makes you aware of your screen time in a concrete way, and analyzes how it is distributed.
You may be surprised to learn that you spent more than five hours on your phone the other day, including two hours looking at pictures of cats on Instagram, or that you checked your business mailbox at 11pm every night of the week. Analyze this data in detail, and think about what you would like to change.
Select apps to restrict
To limit screen time on smartphones, you need to target certain applications. It’s not worth removing all your apps, you might not last long term and be lost without some useful tools like your calendar.
The important thing is to select the ones you think you are overuse for. Limiting the time spent on your GPS or a music streaming app is not of much interest. Messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Messenger can also be seen as a form of social life, especially in this time of global pandemic, and can therefore be seen as essential.
Generally, it is social networks that account for most of the screen time, and whose use is more problematic. Review all your apps and note the ones you regularly click on aimlessly, just out of habit, and want to use less.
Once your applications are targeted, set a limit of time or minute per day for each of them. If you think you can stick to it by the sheer force of your will, well done, but if you don’t, the screen time tool is here to help.
On iPhone, in “Screen Time,” choose “App Limits.” You can limit one category (e.g. “social networks”), and/or set a custom limit per application. On Android, in “Digital Wellness and Parental Control,” tap the chart and select “Set the Timer” next to the app of your choice.
Once you reach your maximum daily duration, access to the app will be blocked. On iPhone, you can choose to extend usage by 15 minutes, or indefinitely by clicking “Ignore the limit for today.” On Android, you have to go back to the timer settings in “Digital Wellness and Parental Control.”
Don’t set an untenable limit either. Social networks are not harmful by nature, like many things in life, it is excess that is the problem. In 2017, a study showed that limiting social networks to 30 minutes a day was enough to reduce the risk of depression and improve personal well-being.
Putting apps away from temptation
In order not to explode the screen time counter once the limits have been set, some automatisms must be broken. There are apps you click on without even thinking about, at a bus stop, waiting for a friend or while the pasta is cooking. They are often prominently displayed on your phone’s homepage, and your thumb might find them even with your eyes closed.
So to avoid clicking on it mechanically, there is a trick: just “ranger” your home page differently. On the first page, keep only the necessary applications, which you need to have at hand (or rather thumb). Organize apps that you want to use less per folder, and at least put them on the second page or even third or fourth (the goal is to ward off temptation).
In general, reducing screen time reduces anxiety, as disconnection is good for the brain. However, unlike the radical method of leaving all networks, you won’t feel isolated and won’t be afraid to miss something (the famous FOMO, “fear of missing out”). You’ll simply be less dependent on your smartphone.