I fully admit I am addicted to screens. I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. I find myself reaching for my phone or iPad whenever I have a minute of down time and just want to relax. Typically I open up Facebook or Instagram, or occasionally Twitter or Pinterest if I want to mix it up, start scrolling, and then 45 minutes later I wonder what I am doing with my life. What else could I have done with those 45 minutes? I could have read a book, folded a load of laundry, washed the dishes (gasp!), or done something creative. While I enjoy keeping up with others and I don’t think there’s inherently anything wrong with wanting to participate in social media, I personally know I need to strike a better balance.
At a recent professional conference I learned about a little productivity trick that is already build into iPhones and iPads (I cannot comment on other devices as I am not familiar with them, and I have not yet figured out if there is a way to make this work on my Mac). Maybe this was only news to me, but I can already see it making a big difference in how I limit my own screen time, so I want to share it briefly in case you need it as much as I do (hello, anyone there?).
Did you know that you can set a timer on your iDevice and, rather than making an alarm sound, have it shut your screen OFF after the allotted time? Yep! Here’s how you do it:
Go into your timer app and decide just exactly how much time you’d like to waste spend on social media or Candy Crush or whatever you do to chillax and lose all track of time unwind. I’ll feel a lot better about myself if I only spend five minutes online this evening so that’s what I set it for. Maybe tomorrow it will be ten, or twenty if I’ve had a rough day at work. Then instead of choosing an alarm tone to play when the timer ends, scroll to the bottom and select Stop Playing. Now start your timer and get to your mindless scrolling, because you’re now on a finite timetable, baby!
After the allotted time, your phone or iPad will kick you out to the lock screen from whatever app you happen to be in and make you enter your passcode in order to get back in. For me, that’s all I need. Once the iPad says I’m done, I can easily put it down and go do something else. If I don’t have limits coming at me from something outside myself, I could probably keep doing the same thing forever (there’s something theological there, I’m sure).
I can see this working really well for setting screen limits for children as well. Mommy can be the bad guy and tell you to turn off the iPad, OR the iPad can just shut down when the time is up and then it’s not Mommy’s fault iPad time is over! (Your own parenting style may determine which of these options is more attractive to you.) My child is not yet old enough that I feel comfortable handing my phone off to him, but I’m not naïve enough to believe we won’t get there someday, and we’ll have to learn to navigate the waters of how to limit screen time for him too. For now, I’m the one that needs help developing healthy habits so that I can set a good example for my child and find a better balance for my life.
Melissa Harden is a full-time elementary school speech
language pathologist and mama to a little man who will be, unfathomably, two this year. Her kitchen is chronically messy and her best friends are those people for whom she doesn’t feel she needs to clean it even a little. Melissa loves reading, coffee, grammar, colorful pens, snuggling, essential oils, and snark. She spends way too much time on the internet but vows to change that someday.