When I have pause in my day, my first impulse is to check my phone. I imagine this habit originated with the sound of a ding or a whistle. Today, my phone does not need to summon me with a ding or whistle. I instinctively turn to it.
Glancing at my phone, I always find something that catches my eye. Soon, I am scrolling through discovering an unread email, finding a forgotten calendar event, checking a Pinterest notification or downloading a new game. With so much to see, I am not surprised the average person looks at their phone 110 times a day.
All these checks add up. I find what starts as a quick glance can turn into 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes or 30 minutes. The average person spends almost 3 hours per day on a mobile device. While some of this activity is undoubtedly necessary and productive, some of it is mindless digital wandering. In fact, this same study found time spent online is increasing largely due to the growth of entertainment apps.
While I would never give up my phone, I believe it does command too much of my attention. At the end of the day, I feel stressed by the loss of time. I think about all the things I should have done with those 3 hours.
I have noticed this is true for my family as well. My kids all have phones or tablets and their devices are never far from them. When they have down time, they are often online surfing or playing games. We all are together but looking at our screens instead of each other.
In an effort to curtail mindless digital wandering and reduce screen time, I am bringing intention back to my digital activities. Instead of hopping online, I am slowing down and thinking about my purpose. I am hoping by realigning my digital habits, I can restore balance in my family’s digital life.
4 Tips to Reduce Screen Time
Surf with intention -This is one is from my yoga class. Before we begin our practice, we set an intention. In the digital world, before opening the browser, I set my intention. Is there something I need in this moment? If so, I look it up. If not, I put the phone away. When my kids want to use the computer, I ask them the same question.
Silence the app – Some apps are time stealers. I am looking at you Candy Crush. After too many hours in the Magic Kingdom, I deleted Candy Crush from my phone. Instead of crushing candies, I am carving out time for my hobbies and interests.
Stay in the moment –To reduce digital distraction, I am keeping my phone tucked away. When we are having dinner, all our phones are off the table and put away. Out of sight, out of mind.
Switch off– All phones now have a bedtime and sleeps downstairs. At home, we have a screen free area. We call it the away room – no TV, no computer and no phones. It is an area for disconnecting and relaxing.
Anne Livingston is the author of the KidsPrivacy blog where she shares parenting tips for raising kids in a digital world. She works with Familoop as their digital parenting expert.