Michigan Association of Health Plans

6 Ways to Reduce Screen Time

This story appeared in Priority Health’s ThinkHealth blog. Read more here.

Staying connected is easier than ever, but unplugging from time to time can benefit your health.


While it’s important to stay up to date on what’s happening in the world (and in our social channels), some studies have shown too much screen time is linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety, obesity and other adverse health conditions.

Continuously checking accounts and scrolling through feeds can be a tough habit to break. But in an era where “sitting is the new smoking,” with mental health being top of mind, making an effort to limit time spent on your phone or sitting in front of the TV can go a long way for both your physical and emotional wellbeing. The Mayo Clinic Health System recommends two hours of screen time for teens and adults, one hour for children 2 to 12, and no screen time for children two and under. If you’re ready to reduce your screen time, try these six tips to stay connected, while disconnecting.

1. Track the “non-essential” time you spend on screens.


It’s easy to dismiss most of your screen time as necessary due to things like school, work, or staying in touch with family. After all, these things are important. But it’s just as easy to overindulge. Scrolling through Instagram on your lunch break, streaming Hulu while you cook or eat, and continuously refreshing the day’s news adds up.

Try spending one week tracking how much time you spend using your phone, watching TV, and using the computer outside of essential activities (e.g. work, school, connecting with family, or completing a virtual workout or health appointment). Add up the time and work towards cutting down on it a little each week for several weeks.

2. Turn off notifications for non-essential apps.  


A barrage of breaking news from Facebook can lead to hopeless scrolling sessions. Limit your notifications to just those you deem essential, such as calls, texts and emails. Doing this creates less interruptions and invitations to get caught up in your feeds.

Also, pay attention to how certain apps make you feel. Do you get stressed when you receive a breaking news notification? Does the sight of someone’s tropical Air B&B make you jealous on Instagram? Allow these feelings to guide how much time you’re spending on certain apps. Consider deleting or setting a time limit for apps that leave you feeling stressed, anxious or sad. Here’s a tip: Set a timer before you check Facebook or Instagram to ensure you don’t stop and scroll for hours.

3. Establish specific “no screen” times.


Commit to not using screens during specific time frames such as dinnertime or after 10 p.m. Leave your phone or the remote in another room so you won’t be as tempted to pick it up during your new screen-free time frame.

Consider additional “screen free times” such as committing an hour every night to spend as a family without screens (board or card games are a great alternative to social media) or dedicating an hour of your weekend to get active without devices. Your family will appreciate the “no phone zone” and you might find your time connecting with them better for you than your time connected to any given subreddit.

4. Don’t “double-device” it.


Do you find yourself scrolling Instagram AND binge watching your favorite shows at the same time? If you’re one flip through your tablet while you flip on the tele, it’s okay; many of us are guilty of “double-devicing.” But here’s the problem: It leads to more distraction and less focus. Work on using only one device at a time so you can better focus on the task at hand. We know it’s hard, but you can do it!

5. Lead by example.


Ever notice how one person on their phone leads to many people on their phones? We tend to mimic the screen habits of those around us. Be the first to set down your phone and be the example. Here’s another tip: Spend dinner disconnected. Whether you’re dining alone or with the whole family, try putting down the phones, shutting off the television, and enjoy a little screen-free dining. All those alerts can wait as you make “TV Dinners” a thing of the past, eating healthy without interruption.

6. Pick up the phone to actually call.


Too many texts? Tired of emails? Fix the fatigue with a good, old fashioned phone call. Call a family member. Ring a friend. And as a bonus — head out for a quick walk or turn on the treadmill while you talk. Turn your time catching up into exercise. A screen break AND a little cardio can be great. In fact, there are so many health benefits to walking even just 20 minutes a day.

It’s 2024 and screens are an essential part of life, but don’t let them control you. Subtract some screen time and try engaging more with the people and world around you.

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