Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

When used properly, our devices can help with challenges such as depression and anxiety, though sometimes and for some people, they can also make those challenges worse. Read more below for simple tips and tools for staying in control of your screen time, or check out the Center for Humane Technology’s Take Control Toolkit.

Social Media
  • Everything about notifications are designed to make you check them frequently — you can disable them to reduce the pull and distraction of your apps.
  • Your number of friends/followers online is not a real-world badge of how popular, cool, or glamorous you are — it only feels that way.
  • If you begin imagining hearing alerts, ringtones, or other notifications when you are away from your device or are dreaming of apps on your phone, it is a sign that you need to take a break.
  • Recognize “obsessive” behaviors such as: waking up at night to check your notifications, constantly checking feeds and posts (your own and others), having consistent thoughts about online media that interrupt your daily activities and emotions, etc.
Screen Time
  • The fear of missing out or FOMO is that feeling we sometimes get when we are not plugged into our devices and we sense or worry that “something cool or important is happening somewhere and I am missing it!” If you find that you are having a hard time unplugging without having a FOMO reaction, it is a sign that you may need to be unplugging more, not less.
  • “Binging” used to be a bad word. Just because the streaming service dropped the entire season at once, does not mean you HAVE to watch it that way. Try spreading the episodes out and enjoying the show over time. Delayed gratification can be even more gratifying!
  • Remember, you do not necessarily need to halt your use completely — health is about balancing media with other, real-world recreational, educational, and social activities.
  • Think about why and how many times you are picking up your device. Is it because you need to look something up, or are you doing so mindlessly?
  • It is easy to lose time while playing games, and it can be far too easy to blow off responsibilities, let someone down, miss opportunities, or disrupt a sleep schedule if you don’t pay attention. Avoid doing just “one-more-level,” and remember, timers and alarms can help.
  • Taper your use and motivate yourself to make healthy, day-to-day choices by tying gaming to specific and measurable goals: such as a reward for every mile you run, each book you finish reading, test that you pass, or predetermined amount of money that you put into savings.
  • Avoid gaming right before social engagements (meals with friends/family) or any new learning (e.g., school work) to ensure you are well-regulated and ready to focus.
  • Is gaming taking over your life? Take a short quiz at GameQuitters.com to find out and find support and additional resources if needed.
  • If you cannot find a way to control or curb your gaming, then it may be necessary to seek professional help from a therapist/counselor in your area.