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Screen Time: Assessing Yourself and Controlling Use

Screen Time: Assessing Yourself and Controlling Use

Updated: 4.1.2022

The use of technology has rapidly increased over the last few years. Because our devices offer virtual meetings, schooling, entertainment and communication at the click of a button, it is important to regulate your time spent on screens. Learning and practicing new strategies will help you reach the ideal amount of screen time adults and children should be exposed to.

How much screen time is too much?

While there is no set rule on how much screen time is considered too much, some general recommendations may help. We know there is a threshold where too much screen time becomes unhealthy. This threshold varies with age, type of screen, content, and other individual parameters. One rule of thumb is that when screen use interferes with daily functioning including sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships, then it is time to re-evaluate and reduce screen use. This may sound easy but clearly takes a willingness to assess and control yourself to put it into practice.

Strategies to limit screen time

A man using both a cell phone and computer while sitting on a couch.Developing your own strategies to monitor your screen time and determine if screens are helping or detracting from your goals is useful. Whether it’s reviewing your daily goals in the morning and the evening or setting clear parameters for screen time, you can challenge yourself to find ways to limit your screen time. For example, you may want to match exercise minutes with screen time. The specifics can be individually driven, but the idea of being aware of how your time is spent and being willing to adjust if it’s simply not working can be for everyone.

Tips for guiding children and reducing screen time:

  • Set an example for your child. When it comes to children, parent or guardian behaviors are strong motivators. Setting rules for screen time is reasonable but be aware that your own screen time practices are key. Watch that your screen time does not interfere with your daily life or contradict what you are trying to teach your children, they might be more receptive to the rules. For example, if the family rule is no screens at mealtime, make a point of putting your device away or turning it off during this period.
  • Record programs and watch them later.This method will allow you to fast-forward through commercials. If you are unable to pre-record or fast forward, try using the breaks for a quick stretch or challenge the family to see who can do the most jumping jacks during the commercial break.
  • Keep smartphones, computers and TVs out of the bedroom. Children who have electronics in their bedroom watch more than children who don’t have these in their bedrooms. By keeping electronics in a common area of your house, you can monitor your child’s screen time and the websites they visit.

Learn additional tips on managing screen time and guiding children to develop healthy screen time habits within the Mayo Clinic Health Library article.

A family of four sitting in a living room watching a movie.Screens are with us for the foreseeable future and are important tools for communication. Learning to assess and control yourself is essential in managing your screen time. The need for screens has clearly changed during this era of limited in-person communication, but general guidelines remain to help us decide how to use our screens wisely. Remember to assess thoughtfully if screen use is helping or hindering you from accomplishing your goals. Help the children in your life by demonstrating the value of assessment and control when it comes to the management of your devices.

It can be challenging to start limiting screen time; however, by making these small changes in your routine, you can curb the potential health effects and live a healthy lifestyle. For further information or to discuss health concerns related to screen time, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.