For millions of American workers, Memorial Day weekend not only ushered in the unofficial start of summer, but the official start of summer hours. According to the Washington Post, around 40 percent of American companies now offer some version of the summer Friday perk to keep power charges low and recharge workers’ mental batteries.
So how about setting summer hours for our mobile device use? If you’re like most Americans, you can use it.
A mounting body of research shows cell phone addiction is a pervasive problem that’s deteriorating our health in numerous ways – anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, even wrist and hand pains. We know we’re on them too much, yet we do it anyway.
Dr. Jenna Meyerberg, PhD, LPC, an authority on youth social and emotional development, has written extensively about how living in an age of instant communication and nearly unlimited access to information is having a significant, negative impact on people. STOPit Solutions recently had an opportunity to sit with Dr. Meyerberg and talk about electronics addiction on the STOPit Solutions Podcast. In addition to providing helpful suggestions for encouraging everyone to unplug and being more present in real life (aka “IRL”), she shares evidence-based research proving that people who are more disciplined in their online habits have higher self-esteem and confidence than their tech-obsessed peers.
These statistics and trends may feel oppressive, but the fact is that we DO have control over our own behavior and there’s no better time for a break than now. The beaches are open, the sun is out until 8:30 at night, and the warm breeze smells like flowers, the neighbor’s barbecue and freshly cut grass. Go out and enjoy it! Read on for a few simple ways we can institute summer hours for our phones and tablets.
Make a Plan and Apply It
A good way to start is to diagnose the ailment and set your cure. Both Apple and Google now have apps (Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing, respectively) that can tell you how much time you’re spending on your devices, with breakdowns by specific apps and categories.
Those who haven’t checked their stats before may be in for a shock. Studies have suggested that Americans check their phones once every 12 minutes – or roughly 80 times per day – and spend about four hours on them daily. Thankfully, Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing can be programmed to enforce time limits for your apps and lock them if you’ve crossed the line.
Take a look at your averages, come up with realistic goals for curbing your time and use these apps to hold you to them. Can you cut your app use by an hour per day? Two? Take the challenge!
The dinner table used to be a family’s impenetrable bubble from the world. Kids told mom and dad what they learned in school and there were no interruptions allowed from the TV or ringing phones. Now everyone at the table is glued to Twitter and video games while they chew.
We can all make a meaningful dent in our gadget use by declaring them off-limits at times when good manners dictate they should be off anyway. Set a rule that they’re not allowed in the same room as the dinner table. Apply the same standards to times that are meant to be about family and friends – summer vacation trips, graduation parties, the annual golf outing. You can never get those moments back.
And if you’re out for a meal with friends, encourage everyone to pile them in the center of the table with the sound off. First person to give in picks up the check!
Be a Cellular Role Model
If you want to make summer hours stick with your kids, do as you say and say as you do. Like just about anything with parenting, it’s easy to dictate a bunch of rules and quite another thing to enforce them. If you lecture your kids about a bad behavior and then model it in front of them, they won’t take the lesson seriously or follow it.
If you lay down a “no Kindle before summer camp” rule, don’t let them see you glued to Facebook over your morning coffee. Show them it can be done.
Think about ways you can make summer hours a family affair. If everyone in your house is a part of the challenge, you can hold each other accountable and set up fun prizes for those who reach their goals.
And who knows — once summer hours are over and schools are back in session, maybe some of these healthy, new habits will stick. To paraphrase an old saying, “An app less per day keeps the doctor away.”
Download our tip sheet and hang it on the refrigerator and home and work — or pass it along to a friend who you can recruit to take the challenge with you.
For extra satisfaction, write down what you did during the hour (or two) you reclaimed each day. Did you get an extra hour of sleep? Take the time to cook your favorite meal? Walk the dog on a new trail or have that family movie night you keep talking about? Let’s work together to live healthier, happier lives — right now!
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