Many of us relied on screens to stay connected and entertained during the restrictions of pandemic life. To break your family or friends’ screen habits, you don’t have to go cold turkey. Instead, practice separating yourself from your phone for periods of time. Some ways to do this: Don’t check any screen until you’ve been up for a half hour. Take a walk or go to lunch without your phone. At dinner, try a “first-to-look” game. Put all phones at the center of the table. The first one to look does the dishes or pays the tab!
Why Am I Doing This?
Incoming texts, alerts, emails and vibrations are a near-constant presence in our lives, and these interruptions can take a toll on our minds, our sleep and our ability to engage with others. In one study, just the presence of a cellphone in the room made people feel less connected to conversation partners.
Screens don’t need to be banned entirely, but putting away our tech from time to time can help us focus on real life.
To ease your dependency on screens, try creating some no-phone and no-screen zones in your home, work and play spaces. To get the whole family involved, make a game out of not looking at your phones.
1. In the bed. Get a real alarm clock and charge your phone or tablet in another room overnight. It’s a lot easier to resist your tech when it’s not within an arm’s reach. Getting tech out of the bedroom is a proven way to help you sleep better. The blue light from your screen has the same effect on your brain as sunlight, which means it wakes you up just when you want to be drifting off. For children, the allure of technology is strong. In one study, even having an unused device in the bedroom increased a child’s risk for sleep problems.
2. At lunch. When you’re at work, practice taking phone-free lunches. Leave your phone in your desk drawer, and suggest that your dining partners do the same. It will feel strange at first, but you’ll likely grow to like the daily break from emails and texts. One study found that just holding a phone or having it at the table, even if you don’t look at it, has an effect on those you’re with. In that study, people felt less empathy and social connection when their dining partner had their phone on the table or in their hand.
3. In the outdoors. Leave the phone at home when you walk the dog, take the kids for a stroll or go for a bike ride, hike or jog. If you’re in a new place and want to take photos, it’s OK to bring the phone — just put it in airplane mode, so you can only use it as a camera and you won’t be tempted by the pings of texts, tweets or emails.
4. At the table. It’s better to keep phones away from the table during meals, and zero tolerance needs to apply to everyone , not just the children. If you liked the “first-to-look” game, there are other games to try for meal-time screen use. Consider a “one glance policy,” which allows everyone at the table to glance, just once, at their phone during the meal. Or, make a rule that the phone can be used only once at dinner, and only for the benefit of the whole group, to Google a fact, resolve debates or enlighten the table with meaningless trivia. Anyone who uses the Google excuse to check email or texts loses all phone privileges at the next meal!
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