9 ways to stare at screens less

Yes, we know kids need to get off screens and get outside. But what about everyone else? That smartphone habit probably isn’t doing your own sleep habits, relationship or healthy lifestyle any favours either. Isn’t it amazing how you can “just check your email” and then get sucked into your phone and realize that you meant to go to bed half an hour ago? 

It’s not just kids who need to make room for play and get off the screens. We could all benefit from a digital diet. 

Here are some ways to reduce your own screen time:

Be mindful.

If you can break the habit of mindlessly checking your phone whenever you have a few minutes, you will start to notice when and where you fall into these traps. Noticing your bad habits is the first step towards changing them. 

Record screen time vs. active time.

Take some time to observe how much time you and your family spend watching screens versus being active. This will give you a good baseline for how best and where to make positive changes.

Have screen-free zones.

I never sleep with my phone beside my bed and I never have it at the family dinner table with my little kids. If you make a concerted effort to “protect” certain areas and activities from screens, you’ll be less likely to default to always being on your device. You may go through withdrawal at first, but this is a sign that you need to make this change.

Be a role model.

Limit your recreational screen-use to no more than 2 hours per day. Let your kids see you sticking to these guidelines. By modelling more responsible screen use for your children, you’ll likely pick-up some better habits for yourself along the way.

Do it standing up.

ParticipACTION wants to help you sit less and move more. If you must check your phone or email, consider standing, doing lunges or roaming around your desk while you do it, and walk around during TV commercials. 

Re-consider which accounts absolutely need to be synced to your phone.

The more accounts you have linked to your phone, the more likely you are to check them. Ask yourself: does every account I currently have need to be linked to my phone? Constantly being ‘in the loop’ or accessible by others makes it really hard for you to step away and build some separation between you and your phone. While this isn’t always possible, depending on your job, you can make it a rule to stop checking your work email after a certain time.

Make it hard.

Take the TV out of your bedroom. Leave your phone at home when you go for a walk. Keep the phone charger off your bedside table. 

Avoid using screen-time as a reward or punishment.

We need to re-evaluate the norm and over-presence of screens in our lives. Rather than promising screen-time for a job well done, or restricting screen-time for misbehavior, why not reward your kids with a fun activity that requires movement, like taking them to the park or organizing a pick-up soccer game? For more ideas, check out our 150 Play List. Making this change will help increase the value of being active and decrease the value placed on screens.

Go cold turkey.

Try going “screen free” for an afternoon, a day, or a week-long vacation. 

And when you’re done reading this blog, run away from this screen!