As students these days, it seems like more and more of our time is spent online.
Paper textbooks are fading out in leu of online access codes (can we talk about how expensive those are, though?), virtual or hybrid courses are becoming more mainstream, and many schools use tools such as Canvas or Blackboard to move material online. Even courses held in a traditional classroom have online resources such as videos, text, and assignments. Papers are written on a word processor, and quizzes are taken in a web browser.
That’s a lot of screen time. In fact, a study conducted by marketing-research group Nielson found that the average American adult spends over 11 hours a day involved in media.
As someone who spent a lot of her college time taking online classes, I’m no stranger to the sheer amount of time being spent online as a student. And that’s before I’ve even gotten to my downtime! Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, the Sims…there’s no doubt a LOT of time is being spent staring at that screen. In fact, a couple of weeks ago my phone declared I had spent a total of 62 hours and 17 minutes on it…EEK! That’s more than 8 hours a day! And that’s not including my laptop or tablet.
Why reduce screen time?
There are lots of studies out there showing how bad that screen time is for us as well. The consequences of spending too much time online can include head, neck, and back pain, sleep deprivation, weight gain, and eye strain.
Obviously, as a student, there is much about screen time that can’t be changed. You can’t really reduce the number of hours you spend in your courses without seeing a downward trend in your grades.
So how do you balance all of that, and still minimize the negative effects?
Here are 7 proven ways to reduce screen time. I say “proven” because I’ve tried them – and they cut the time spent on my phone in half.
- Set screen time limits on your phone. In my phone’s settings, there’s a section for screen time – and within it, the option to set limits on how much I’m on various apps. I have a limit of 4 hours a day set for my social media apps. I also have “downtime” scheduled for 11:30pm-7:00am, when I should be sleeping.
- Charge your phone away from your bed. Speaking of sleep, it’s super easy to not sleep if your phone is within reach of your bed. Throughout high school and my dorm time I had my phone charging in my bed with me all night. It’ll also be easier to get up in the morning if your alarm is across the room.
- Put pen to paper more often. So I 100% understand the desire to read and compose everything on a device. Save the trees, right? But that’s a huge amount of time spent basking in the blue light of a screen. Try printing out short articles for class instead of bookmarking them, or drafting your essay in a recycled paper notebook. (They work great for class notes, too, instead of your laptop!)
- Pick up another hobby – and not a digital one. Can you do something creative (origami, cross stitch, coloring), productive (reading, journaling, meditation), or active (running, sports, hiking) instead of being on your phone, laptop, or tablet? Commit to doing it one hour a day. That’s one hour a day you won’t be looking at a screen!
- Put the phone away during social times. Family meals, dates, and outings with friends are places where it’s common to fall into the trap of “let me check my email real quick” becoming spending the whole night on Facebook. Take all the phones, silence them, and put them in the middle of the table. Hold each other accountable.
- Leave the devices in one room. Put your phone, your computer, your tablet, what have you in one space. If you’re in a dorm, maybe they don’t leave your desk. If you’re at home, put them in the office and leave them there. Don’t take them to the kitchen, bathroom, or bed. When you leave the space, leave the screens there.
- Do a smartphone detox. This one may be a little more extreme in terms of reducing screen time, but it can be very effective at establishing a habit quickly. Here’s the smartphone detox I used in order to break my addiction to my phone:
I started using these strategies a couple of weeks ago. In the last 7 days, my phone reports a total of 33 hours and 23 minutes of screen time. That’s less than five hours a day – much better, wouldn’t you say?
So go ahead, give them a try.
What worked for you? How much of your screen time did you reduce?