Many parents have rules for “screen time” for their kids—that is, how much cumulative time they can spend looking at televisions, computers, gaming systems, and even smart phones and tablet computers. We intuitively know it’s important for kids to spend time engaged in activities that don’t require eyeballs on screens.
As adults we should be imposing similar limits on ourselves. The hitch is, of course, that we often need to use our screens for work: we are tied to devices like our computers, tablets, and phones for our professional life. When the workday is over (for those lucky ones whose workdays DO end), we often turn to screens to watch the news of the day, unwind, or catch up with friends and family.
We need to remember that it’s important for adults to unplug as well. Earlier this year, Psychology Today wrote a great article about how intertwined we are with technology and why it’s so hard to detach from the digital world. To help bring awareness, there’s a National Day of Unplugging in March where participants pledge an entire day sans connectivity and a Screen Free Week next Spring oriented towards families.
But let’s start with baby steps. Since it’s not always easy to do, and knowing where to start can be a bit daunting, I’ve pulled together a few tips on setting limits on your own screen time:
We intuitively know it’s important to spend time engaged in activities that don’t require eyeballs on screens.
- No screens during dinner. Whether you’re a family of eight or live alone, plan on dinnertime being screen-free. Turn off the news, and don’t check texts or status updates—just stop and enjoy the meal in front of you.
- Remove screens from bedrooms. When it’s time to retire for the evening, don’t tempt yourself to unwind with a movie or laptop. Let your bedroom be a haven and snuggle up with a cup of tea and a good book. It’s a calming way to end your day.
- Ramp up your workout. Instead of watching a movie or the news while reading a tablet on a treadmill, how about popping in your earbuds to energize yourself with a favorite song? Let the music be your muse, not the talking heads on the screen.
- Get outside, and leave your screens behind. Take the dog for a walk, head to the park with a novel or sketchpad, or just sip some lemonade on your own front porch. If you must take your phone with you because you need to be accessible to others, keep it out of reach and pretend it isn’t there until it notifies you otherwise.
- Head to the library. Remember the old days before screens were omnipresent? Rediscover the joy of the library…rooms stuffed with books just waiting to be read. Spend an hour or so perusing the shelves, and then bring some home to enjoy instead of that glowing box.
Technology brings so many wonderful things to our world, but the key is to not let it run your life. Take some time out of each day to put the smart phone down and engage in the world around you. Your eyes and your imagination will thank you.