Too Much Screen Time

Effective strategies for limiting teens’ screen times is one of the top requests we receive from parents, because, as everyone knows, teens are using their smartphones, mostly for social media, a lot.  A U.S. survey from 2018 showed that 70% of teens check social media several times a day, up from just 34% in 2012. Sixteen percent of teens check their social feeds nearly constantly, and another 27% do so on an hourly basis.  So, this month we are providing another tip to help both you and your teens decrease the phone time.

We stress here at the Organization for Social Media Safety that neither smartphones, generally, or social media, specifically, are inherently detrimental to adults or teens.  Plenty of educational and social benefits can derive from phone and social media use.  But, when teens, and adults, are starting to rack up multiple hours per day on their phones, the danger becomes the loss of other important activities that are being crowded out.

We must continue to be aware of two important considerations.  First, social media is designed to be addictive.  So, we need to watch for habitual use.  Are you or your teen reaching for the phone when you wake up in the morning or right before you go to sleep?  Are you or your teen using the phone as a crutch in social situations, including during mealtimes?  Are you or your teen mainly using social media when taking breaks from work assignments? These are all signs of habitual use.

Also, we need to be mindful of the strong correlation between excessive phone use and mental health issues. 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.

So What to Do – Share your Use Publicly!

To reduce your family’s phone use, we are proposing the Phone Time Challenge, which relies on some psychological hacks, like gamification and public accountability.

Both Android and iPhones have software, named Digital Wellbeing and Screentime respectively, that provide detailed information on your daily and weekly phone and app consumption.  Now, it is time to really use them!

(You can find more information here about your phone’s time trackers.)

Try this:

Put a calendar up somewhere central and visible in your house and every day at the same time, perhaps nightly at dinner or some other convenient time everyone is together, write each person’s daily usage times on the calendar.  (Make it a fun, daily family ritual.) You can do just overall time or also include social media usage. Then, after a one-week diagnostic period (you will likely be surprised at how much you are really using your phone!), everyone should write down their weekly goals at the top of the calendar.  (Don’t have a calendar?  You can download one here.)

This challenge also works if you would like to try it on your own.  Just share your goal and times on social media once a week with all your friends for a month.

Take the Phone Time Challenge for at least a month, just one month, and let us know how it goes!  Email us pics of your calendar or share them with us on social media#phonetimechallenge