On October 18th at The Picture House Regional Film Center, Pelham Together hosted a film screening of LIKE, a documentary that explores the impact of social media in our lives—adults and children alike. The goal of the film is to inspire all of us to self-regulate, strive for healthy balance, and give us some tools to do so. Following the film, Pelham Together Executive Director Laura Caruso led a panel discussion among experts and Pelham students who shared their perspectives on this topic with an audience of 150 residents, parents, students, and staff from our schools and District.

The following article by Kate Ashford pulls many of the suggestions from the film and more into a fabulous list of tools to equip us to self-regulate our use of technology in pursuit of a healthy balance!

Special thanks to our panelists for their time and contribution—Dr. Mark Bertin, Dr. Katherine Harding, Mr. Scott Brown, Nora Tahbaz (PMHS senior), and Quincy Stern (PMS student). If you were unable to attend, please check pelhamtogether.org for a video of the panel discussion.

11 Things You Can Do to Self-Regulate Your Technology Usage

By Kate Ashford

Screen time—and people’s dependence on technology—is a popular topic, and for good reason. American adults spend an average of three hours and 35 minutes every day on mobile devices, according to eMarketer, and they average about 2,617 daily touches—including touching, tapping, swiping and clicking.

All that time on technology isn’t doing people any favors. Using several social media platforms has been found to lead to more depression and anxiety. Smartphone use may result in lower quality sleep. And smartphone addiction can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation, research has found.

But in an era when people’s smartphones have become what they feel is a necessity, how do you decrease how much time you’re spending with your devices? Here are a few strategies for reclaiming your non-smartphone life:

Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock. Many people use their smartphones to wake them in the morning, which means that when you turn off your alarm, you’re immediately faced with all the notifications and messages you missed overnight. Boom—you start the day on your phone. Try charging your phone somewhere else in the house and use a regular alarm clock to rouse you. You’ll start the day with your own thoughts instead.

Carry a book. If you look at your phone whenever you have five free minutes, consider carrying a Kindle or a paperback book with you. When you’re standing in line or waiting for a friend to meet you for dinner, you don’t have to scroll Facebook to fill your time—you can get to that book you’ve been meaning to read. If you aren’t a reader, consider taking up knitting.

Make a social media appointment. If you can’t make it through the day without constantly checking your social media apps, make it deliberate: Set aside 30 to 60 minutes a day (or however long makes sense in your schedule) when you’re free to scroll, like and comment to your heart’s content. Experience no guilt, because it’s planned social media time. But when your appointment is over, put the phone down and move on to other things. Experts call this “batching”—grouping your social media activity together instead of checking every 10 minutes. Knowing you’ve got that time built into your schedule might make it easier to ignore the social media pull at other times of day.

Make your phone less enticing. In terms of allure, your smartphone works a lot like a slot machine—every time you pick it up, there’s a chance of a reward in the form of a like or a new message or another notification. Each “win” gives you a hit of dopamine, which creates a feedback loop that keeps you coming back to your phone. There are a variety of ways to fight back, such as disabling the notifications on the apps that are drawing you in (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat). The fewer little red bubbles you see, the less you’ll feel the need to open your apps to clear them. You can also turn your phone’s screen to grayscale, which makes it less eyecatching. You can find directions for how to do this here.

Watch TV on TV. You’re less likely to watch four straight episodes of The Crown if you have to watch on your couch in the living room, rather than on your smartphone in bed. You also won’t have to stop watching your show to check the text message you just received. Put your phone in another room and keep your big screen pursuits on the bigger screen.

Make a call instead of texting. If what you’re trying to accomplish—setting up a dinner with friends, rehashing some family drama—is going to take more than a few back-and-forth texts, just pick up the phone and call. You’ll benefit from hearing your friend’s tone of voice, make a real human connection and potentially accomplish more in less time—allowing you to return to whatever you were supposed to be doing in the first place.

Hide your phone. Part of the issue with smartphones is that people often keep them within easy reach—in their pockets or next to their work computer, for instance. That’s like keeping Doritos in your car when you’re on a diet. Stash your phone in a drawer when you’re at work. If it isn’t in your hand all the time, it’s harder to check it out of habit.

Put your phone to bed. Consider how much time you spend scrolling through social media apps before you go to sleep at night. What if you put your phone to bed at 9 pm or 10 pm and spent the rest of your evening relaxing and doing other things? (Talking to your spouse or roommate, reading, or even watching a TV show with your family?) The good news: Since blue light before bed can suppress melatonin, limiting your smartphone use in the evening hours might net you some more quality shut-eye.

Use technology to make you more mindful. There are a variety of apps that may be able to help you modify—or at least be more conscious of—how much time you’re spending on your phone. They have their limitations, but one of them might work for you. There are apps like Hold, which rewards you for how much consecutive time you spend off your phone, or Forest, which helps you stay task-focused (and plants actual trees!). Moment will track your screen time in total and by individual app, which might give you a reality check.

Limit the apps that are sucking your time away. Can’t help yourself? Apple’s new operating system allows users to set time limits by individual app—so you can’t spend more than an hour a day on Facebook, even if you try. You can also set Downtime, which makes your phone inaccessible for a period of time, aside from limited apps and phone calls.

Designate phone-free times. For some times of day, set your phone on Do Not Disturb and put it in an out-of-the-way place to reduce temptation. You might do this for an hour in the morning when you get to work—to really make a dent in your to-do list—and for two hours during dinner and homework hours at night. Put your phone in the trunk or the glove compartment when you’re driving. With your phone out of the way, you’ll be free to devote your full attention to the tasks at hand.