Screen-Time Overload? Here’s How to Moderate Your Social Media Intake

a young man massaging his temples while using his laptop

With the rapid expansion of broadband, remote work and study have become possible for more users than ever. And while the benefits of staying connected virtually are far-reaching, screen time overload has, as a consequence, become a major issue. For children, overexposure to screens during the pandemic has been a much-analyzed phenomenon. And for good reason: with online classes, virtual playdates, video calls with distant relatives, gaming and entertainment, it is fundamental to ensure kids have time away from screens, even if they can’t wander very far from home.

But what, meanwhile is happening with the adults? As the line between work and home has become more and more blurred, they, too, are spending more time in front of their own screens: according to one study, the average adult has gone from four to six hours a day on their phones alone during the pandemic. Today, we’re going to look at adult screen-time overload – and how to combat it.

A Whole New Terminology

Let’s start with the physical effects. Excess screen time, and the craning that comes with it, can affect your eyes, back, neck, and shoulders. More time on screens also means less time with children and other loved ones, straining marriages, friendships, and other family relationships at a time when COVID-induced restrictions already have our stress levels at all-time highs.

Indeed, a whole new set of terminology has arisen to describe the various permutations of screen addiction. Doomscrolling is the practice of obsessively scrolling through bad news online – plenty of which has been available over the past year. Zoom fatigue is the exhaustion that comes from excessive video-conferencing. And then there is revenge bedtime procrastination, where we stay up late scrolling, only to regret it the next day. According to one expert, it is a cry from overworked people who are “trying to put off bedtime just a little bit so they can reclaim something for themselves.”  

Not the New Normal

Fortunately, pandemic or no pandemic, we can enjoy the increased speeds and versatility offered by broadband without accepting screen-time overload as the new normal. To combat doomscrolling, tips include setting a fixed amount of time for social-media scrolling and making a habit of looking for – and noting down – at least three positive things in a day. As for Zoom fatigue, building in self-care breaks between video sessions can help, as well as checking in on people’s wellbeing at the beginning of calls. And in order to stop procrastinating and get to sleep at a reasonable hour, we should schedule time for ourselves throughout the day instead of trying to make up for it at night. Taking up a relaxing practice such as meditation and yoga is also advisable, as is the simple resolution to not bring electronic devices into the bedroom.

Other tips can be of general assistance, regardless of how our screen fatigue manifests itself. Turn off automatic notifications that keep your phone beeping constantly – or better yet, delete some of those apps altogether. Set up “no screen hours” in the house that everyone has to adhere to, even if that means (gasp!) turning your phone off. And if none of this works, you can use time trackers such as Apple’s “Screen Time” or Google’s “Digital Wellbeing” to find where you’re spending your time and, if necessary, to turn off certain functions once you’ve hit a pre-programmed limit. 

Keeping It Safe

As we move towards a future of faster internet, broadband will become an ever-more integrated part of our lives, driving innovation and creativity and creating billions of dollars in economic revenue. And that means creating an environment not only that avoids excessive use, but also ensures that the time we do spend on our devices is safe and our information is properly protected. Constant communication between adults and children is the key to making this happen. Find a series of quick guides and safety tips dealing with such topics as hate speech, cyberbullying, privacy, smart cellphone use, and more at Connect Safely. And be sure to check out Beyond’s Distance Learning page for additional tips and information.