Instead of Worrying About Screen Time Right Now, Here Are 7 Ways to Make It Better

Think better, not less.

Better screen time: Woman watching sport training online on tablet
Photo: Getty Images

A "healthy" relationship with technology looks drastically different now than it did three months ago. As the world shifts to more virtual ways of living, the amount of time we spend on our devices has understandably skyrocketed. Given the circumstances, it's important to cut yourself some slack when it comes to the amount of time you're spending in front of screens, but that doesn't mean your efforts to establish healthy boundaries with technology need be forgotten.

"Managing our relationship with technology does not always have to mean decreasing screen time or setting time limits for apps," says licensed social worker and psychotherapist Grace Dowd. "Creating a healthy relationship with technology means using our time on technology for things that build us up rather than drain or deplete us."

If you're feeling a bit drained from months of routine streaming, scrolling, and swiping at home, it could be time to add a few uplifting experiences with technology to your repertoire. Here are seven ways you can build a better relationship with technology by refocusing where and how you use it.

01 of 07

Filter your feed

While it's important to stay informed, consuming an abundance of alarming news and other draining content every day could wreak havoc on your mindset. This is where a little filtering might come in handy.

Pay attention to how you feel as you scroll through your social feeds. If the content posted by a certain person or account you follow tends to mess with your mood, unfollow or mute it. Replace accounts that post content that brings you down with others that build you up. Be unapologetic in your efforts to curate a social media space that best serves you.

If you're a bit of a news junkie and like to keep your Twitter feed full of updates, keep some sources of positivity on hand to balance out the negative stories. A few places to look for positive news include The Ever Widening Circles app, Some Good News with John Krasinski, and the Good News Network.

02 of 07

Start a club

Starving for small talk? One way to work regular banter into your routine—and have more fulfilling screen time—is to swap suggestions for quarantine content with others. Start a club that meets in a virtual setting to share recommendations on books, shows, movies, or even take-out joints. Leave time to discuss why something makes a good recommendation: If you know you have to recall your thoughts on a show or movie later, you may find yourself paying closer attention while you're enjoying it, further engaging your brain.

The simplest way to structure your club with colleagues would be to start a Slack channel centered on the discussion, and a weekly Zoom call could fit the bill if you're looking to get a little more face time with your friends and family.

We're all consuming a ton of content right now, so it's likely you have a few suggestions to bring to the table. If you're having trouble getting the group going, though, recommendation engines such as Likewise can offer a little assistance.

03 of 07

Lend a hand or words of encouragement

We're all facing unique challenges right now. If you feel you're in a position to brighten someone else's day, there are several ways you can use technology (and your screen time) to do so without leaving the house.

Michelle Bengtson, PhD, ABPP, a board-certified neuropsychologist, recommends reaching out to your loved ones with words of affirmation. "More people need to hear that 'you're doing a good job handling this unprecedented situation!' or 'we're going to get through this together,'" she says. Even a brief message could be exactly what someone needs to keep going.

If you have some extra time and want to take this a step further, you can use apps like Afloat and Nextdoor to identify opportunities to help others in your community. Volunteer Match has also created a list of virtual opportunities if you're looking for a full-on volunteer gig.

04 of 07

Find room for gratitude

Gratitude is an extremely powerful tool: Research suggests that taking time out of each day to acknowledge the good can have a positive impact on your mood and mindset. That said, finding gratitude when you're facing unique challenges (aka, a pandemic) can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, there's an app for that.

My gratitude app of choice is called 3 Good Things. The app sends a daily prompt to enter in three good things that happened each day. I selected to receive the prompt at 8:30 each night, but you can choose any time that works best for you.

A couple of other great options for digital gratitude journals are Gratitude, which includes a more comprehensive journal and affirmations, and the New Gratitude Journal, which allows you to add photos to illustrate the things you're grateful for.

05 of 07

Get with a program

There are lots of fitness classes available online right now, but losing the routine of heading to a gym or studio for regular workouts can be tough. This is where I've found virtual fitness programs to be extremely helpful.

The Nike Training Club app features lots of great programs that require little to no equipment and provide the structure I need to stay on top of at-home workouts. The programs in the premium plan typically require a paid subscription, but Nike is currently offering free access.

Two other programs worth checking out are Kayla Itsines's BBG program and Fit Body with Anna Victoria. If an important part of your fitness routine includes one-on-one attention from the trainer at your gym of choice, a program from Daily Burn might be your best option, as the app offers access to virtual personal training.

06 of 07

Take a moment for mindfulness

As researchers continue to laud the many benefits of mediation, more of us are realizing the importance of integrating the practice into our routines. The idea of attempting to calm your thoughts and sit still for an extended period of time may seem a bit intimidating at first, but these days, technology makes mediation easy and accessible for everyone.

Apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations to walk you through the process of settling into mindfulness. The best part: They use breathing techniques and periodic check-ins to bring you back when your mind wanders.

If you're not looking to add another subscription to your budget, Spotify has a variety of guided meditations on its platform. (You could also check out YouTube for free options if you don't use Spotify.)

07 of 07

Make the call

When was the last time you called your mom? If you're like most of us, it wasn't recent enough. In a survey conducted by weBoost, 62 percent of participants said they feel happier after getting off a personal phone call. The problem is that our lives tend to get busy and phone calls take time.

The silver lining of staying at home is that we have plenty of extra time to catch up with friends and family. While in-person visits might not be an option, carving out time for a weekly call or video chat with your loved ones could provide the emotional boost you need to keep the positive vibes flowing throughout the week.

Extra screen time is a given at this point. You shouldn't feel one bit bad about spending more time on your phone or laptop right now. However, it's still important to remain mindful of how your engagements with technology make you feel. If, like most of us, you're feeling a bit bogged down, pay attention to what's draining you and swap some of those activities for a few uplifting tech experiences.

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  1. Cunha LF, Pellanda LC, Reppold CT. Positive psychology and gratitude interventions: a randomized clinical trial. Front Psychol. 2019;10:584. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00584

  2. weBoost, Talking on the Phone is a Good Call. Accessed July 14, 2022.

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