Update: Parents Share Tactics For Reducing Their Screen Time

Dr. Delaney Ruston – Last month, I wrote a blog titled Have Your Phone When You Open This, where I invited you to do one tiny thing related to your phone to help you reduce unwanted time spent on it. I said, “Maybe you want to throw all your apps in a bin, delete an app that is absorbing too much of your attention, or download an app you have been curious about, like one that helps identify plants or bird sounds.” 

I encouraged people to share with youth in their lives whatever small change they made and to share with me as well so that I could share with you! And that is what I am doing today. 

I received some stellar responses. Here are a few examples people shared with me:

  1. Vikki recently deleted 12 apps she no longer used and unsubscribed from irrelevant mailing lists. She said, “Not only did I delete 12 apps I am no longer using. I also went through some recent emails and unsubscribed from mail lists that are irrelevant, not needed, or clogging my inbox for no reason.”
  2. Charmaine set her Facebook app to quiet mode for two weeks. The app reminded her that she was in quiet mode and offered her 15 minutes to check her notifications. However, Charmaine found that she didn’t need to check anything, and this simple change she wrote was  “life-changing” for her.
  3. Clare wrote, “I am a 40-year-old with a flip phone, and it feels GOOD! 🙂 I’m hoping I can model that for my 7 and 9-year-old and they won’t want smartphones?”
  4. Oksana suggested leaving the phone at home or in the car when going somewhere. By doing this, she could focus on the activity at hand without being distracted by her phone. She even announced it to her 15-year-old son, who has started to follow her lead.
  1. David wrote me, “I turned notifications off from Yelp. But you also got me organizing and creating folders of like kinds of apps and just generally cleaning up the screens. Putting things I regularly use on the front screen and pushing everything else back and out of sight.
  2. Suzan shared a phone tweak that she made to limit her scrolling time on Instagram and Facebook. She set up a back tap shortcut to turn on grayscale, which made it less interesting to scroll through social media. When she needed color, she could easily turn it back on, but the extra step was enough to keep her from falling into bad habits. She explained how to do that:

“Turning the iPhone to greyscale is a multi-step process:

  • Open Settings
  • Choose Accessibility 
  • Choose Display & Text Size
  • Tap Color Filters
  • Toggle Color Filters slider to the right
  • Choose Grayscale from the dynamic menu

To use the color filter/greyscale option as a “back tap” shortcut:

  • Open Settings
  • Choose Accessibility 
  • Select Touch
  • Choose Back Tap
  • Tap Double Tap or Triple Tap
  • Choose Color Filters to turn on

Tap the back of your phone twice (or thrice) and greyscale is now on (or off)!”

One final thing. When I suggested we all do this on the same day last month, the term “Phone Mob” popped into my head. That concept (which I have not even bothered to Google to see if it exists) stemmed from my past love of “Flash Mob” dances. Do you recall those Flash Mob days? If you want to take a trip down memory lane, and see a Flash Mob that my family and I organized while living in India some years ago, click here.  And a big and beautiful shoutout to all the kids who participated! 

Questions to get the conversation started: 

  1. Is there one tiny change we might want to make on any tech we use in our lives?
  2. Have you ever taken off an app, decided life was better with it, so reuploaded it? If so, how long did you give yourself to decide?
  3. The person Susan above turned her phone to grayscale, which helped her reduce time because it made her device less interesting. Can you think of other things in your life where color helps to keep your attention?