9 Tips for Cutting Back on Screen Usage

If you’re like many people, from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go back to sleep at night, screens are a huge part of your life. On a typical day, we might check out our smartphones in bed, move to a laptop computer in the coffee shop, then jump on a desktop computer at work. We stare, text, IM, tweet, and share all day, sometimes without really thinking much about it, then we entertain ourselves by watching videos and doing online shopping.

We’re always on our devices. And that’s not idle speculation. According to research from The Neilsen Corporation, the average adult in the U.S. spends nearly 11 hours a day interacting with media1. That’s a lot of time spent staring at screens, which can naturally lead to red, dry, and tired eyes—part of the medical condition known as “digital eye strain.”

Of course, too much screen time can have an effect on our mental health as well. In a survey by the American Psychological Association, 18% of adults in the U.S see technology as a significant source of stress.2

Since technology is so ingrained in our lives, we’re probably not going to go cold turkey and ditch all of our devices. But if you’re interested in cutting back on your screen time and seeing what effects that has on your eye health—and your mental health—here are some actions you can try:

1. Take scheduled breaks from your screens during your day. Go for a walk, do some stretches, hop in the bathtub for a soak, brew a hot beverage, or get lunch or a snack. Use your calendar or alarm feature to remind yourself to get out; you’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated. But whatever you do, leave your phone behind, or else, you might end up checking to-do lists or cat videos!

2. Dumb down your phone. Downgrade your smartphone to a simpler phone with no apps. This restricts your phone usage to calling and texting. Or if you absolutely can’t part with your smartphone, get rid of all unnecessary apps, and only keep the ones you actually use.

3. Turn off your phone at designated times of the day. Dinnertime is an especially good time to disconnect from your phone and connect with others close to you. The average person checks their phone 63 times a day,3 so make sure you aren’t the distracted diner constantly picking up their phone between bites.

In fact, research has shown that the mere presence of a smartphone during a conversation, even if it’s not being actively used, can decrease the quality of that interaction, and can even reduce the levels of empathy (a phenomenon dubbed the “iPhone effect.”)4 Enjoy your food and your conversations instead!

4. Turn off your notifications, especially social media apps. The constant pinging of all those alerts can definitely hijack your attention. Most, if not all, of them are unnecessary. Schedule certain times of the day to check your communications, such as lunch time. Stay up-to-date on your terms.

Research has shown that limiting your social media interactions to 30 minutes per day can significantly improve your mood and well being,5 so start by eliminating those pesky, attention-grabbing alerts!

5. Read a book when times are slow. Instead of checking your phone to kill time and avoid boredom, carry a book with you and read a few pages. This can be a sweet reward for your efforts to decrease screen time.

6. Use the tools that are built into your smartphone to manage your screen time. For example, if you have an iPhone, you can take advantage of Do Not Disturb, which silences calls, notifications, and alerts during times that you’ve set. You can also use Screen Time to monitor how much time you’re devoting to your digital device.

7. Have certain areas of your home that are phone-free zones. Pick a room, such as the bathroom, and decide that you’re not bringing your phone there. Keeping the phone out of the bedroom, for example, can help you get a better night’s sleep, because you won’t be tempted to stay awake scrolling. Keep the phone charger in a different room.

8. Spend time in nature. It feels good, allows you to get some exercise, and gets you away from digital devices. Hiking, biking, paddling, camping; whatever you choose, get out! And one nice side effect is that you might be out of range of cellular networks and the Internet, so you’ll be less tempted to see what’s happening online.

9. Don’t go to bed or wake up with your phone. Set a curfew at night, and cut yourself off from device use at a certain time. In the morning, give your brain plenty of time to wake up before jumping online.

We get that cutting back on screen time can be difficult. If you’re still having trouble, at least you can soothe your digital eye strain symptoms—including redness, dryness, and irritation—with Rohto® Digi Eye® eye drops.