Quite simply, we are using our phones and, with them, social media too much.

This is true of adults and especially true of teens. Teens’ use of electronic devices including smartphones for at least five hours daily more than doubled, from 8% in 2009 to 19% in 2015. In 2009, 58% of 12th-grade girls used social media every day or nearly every day; by 2015, 87% used social media every day or nearly every day.

With all of these hours of social media, we are decreasing our work productivity, missing out on direct social interaction, and forgoing real recreation.  So, it is no surprise that researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.  Teens who used their phones for more than 5 hours a day were 70% more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported one hour of daily use. Teens using social media every day were 14% more likely to be depressed than those who used social media less frequently.

Part of the problem is that social media is designed to addict us.  The likes, the shares, the friend requests give us a rush of endorphins.  And, we come to crave the sensory input: the pictures, the vivid colors, the flashing gifs, the animated thumbs up and hearts.

We are here to help.

To begin to dial down our phone habit, we need to give our brains some help by reducing sensory overload and limiting the stimuli.  On both iOS and Android, you have the ability to limit your phone’s color palette to just shades of gray, called grayscale.  Trust us, it is shocking how much this reduces your unconscious impulse to pick up your phone.

In iOS, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters. Switch Color Filters on and select Grayscale. To quickly switch between color and grayscale, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters. Now, you can press the home button three times to enter grayscale mode. You can triple-click again to go back to color mode.

Activating grayscale differs for Android phones depending on your model, but typically you can turn it on through the “Accessibility” menu.

Have your family take the Grayscale Challenge for a week and let us know how it goes!