Managing screen time
To help you manage your screen time during lockdown, this blog looks at:
- How to reduce the time spent on your phone
- How your phone impacts your eye health
- How mobile devices contribute to other health problems
- Plus, I look at how many hours can be devoted to phone use each day.
How do I reduce the time I spend on my phone?
There are a few simple steps that may just help you manage your phone use. Here's what I suggest.
Log your hours
To help keep yourself healthy when using your phone, I'd recommend maintaining an awareness of the amount of time you spend using your device. Many phones now come with the ability to calculate how many hours you spend on them each day and it can be quite shocking to learn how much this adds up to!
That's out of bounds!
Some phones also now allow you to set restrictions on apps. So, if you go over a certain amount of screen time, a notification will pop up to let you know. It's then up to you whether you ignore it or take the opportunity to rest your eyes!
Do not disturb
You can also use 'do not disturb' settings to give yourself a break from your phone. For older phones, 'flight mode' or 'silent mode' works just as effectively for blocking notifications and internet use!
If your phone doesn't have these settings, or if you don't have the self-control to put your phone away, you could try an app like Flipd! This locks you out of your phone (when you tell it to, of course), so that you are forced to take a break.
Computers, televisions and tablets are equally as tiring for your eyes and health though, so take this time to do something that doesn't involve technology – maybe cut the grass, clean the shower, or something a little more exciting...
Putting your phone on 'night mode', or establishing a 'wind down' period, will help to reduce the strain on your eyes and give you a break from notifications in the evening. Turning down the brightness will have a similar effect. I like to do this from 9pm to help get a better night's sleep.
Instead of picking up your phone as and when you feel like it, set specific times to have a scroll through Facebook or read the news.
You could put your phone away until 11am, for example, and then have a quick update. You could then do the same at 1pm, 3pm and 7pm, and then turn it off for the night, or put it out of sight.
Put the phone out of sight
Some research has found that, if a phone is still in the same room as you, it's incredibly stressful not to check it.1 Apparently, if it's not in the actual room, it's easier. So, whether you are doing some DIY or are working from home, it is a good idea to leave your phone in another room so you are less likely to check it. The research also found that the very presence of the phone undercut cognitive performance so there are added benefits to come from putting it away.
Quality not quantity
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through content, think about what you are using your phone for and aim for quality not quantity. Half the time, we don't remember the things we've seen shared on social media; whereas, talking to friends for an hour has much more meaning.
Is your phone bad for your eyes?
The short answer to this question is, unfortunately, yes. Staring at a phone screen for long periods at a time can dry out the eyes, as we tend to blink less. It may also contribute to Computer Vision Syndrome, which can cause symptoms like itchy eyes and headaches.
If you need help relieving these kinds of symptoms, it's a good idea to start with some of the tips I've listed above. However, for some additional help, you may wish to try some eye drops, particularly if dry or irritated eyes are bothering you.
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How do smart phones affect our health?
In addition to our eyes, our smartphone use is known to impact several other areas of our health.
Lots of studies have looked into the impact of phone use on mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.2 Although this area needs more research, many experts advise limiting screen time as it is thought to be a contributing factor in such problems. This is particularly pertinent at the moment when there are lots of unsettling news headlines around and people are feeling more isolated than normal.
Excessive phone use can also contribute to lifestyle problems like inactivity because the hours spent scrolling through online content or streaming platforms mean we are not moving about. If people are moving less, it is also more likely that they will become overweight or obese.3
In addition, phones can impact sleep, as the blue light emitted from them tricks the brain into believing it is still daytime meaning it can be harder to drift off. A recent A.Vogel survey also found that 46.3% of people use their phones less than 30 minutes before going to bed, so this particular problem is likely to be very significant.
How many hours should you spend on your phone a day?
So, for how many hours a day is it acceptable to use your phone? Well, this is an issue that has received surprisingly little research, and there is no definite answer on the matter just yet!
My advice is, if you believe your phone is having a detrimental effect on your health, in that you are developing any of the issues above, it is time to take action to cut down your use. However, taking a break from your phone is likely to have a positive impact regardless of whether or not you have symptoms; so, try to incorporate some of my tips above and see if you feel better for it!