How to reduce the time we spend in front of the screens?


We need to use new technologies to be able to study and work in today’s world, especially now that the pandemic has made teleworking the norm.

Working several hours in a row in front of a computer, in addition to abusing other electronic devices such as mobile phones, affects our eyes in a very negative way. The blue light emitted by these devices leads to visual health problems, sleep problems and even depression.

Knowing how to reduce the time we spend in front of screens has become extremely necessary know to be able to avoid that our health suffers and next we are going to see some types to be able to obtain it.

How to reduce the time we spend in front of screens

That abuse of screens involves damage to health has been known for a long time. Spending many hours at a time in front of an electronic device causes visual health problems, such as red eyes, eye fatigue, itching, blurred vision and headache symptoms typical of computer vision syndrome.

Added to this, continued exposure to screen light influences our circadian cycle, translated into sleeping difficulties and, indirectly, depression and other mood problems.

Taking into account all these health problems associated with the abuse of electronic devices, it is necessary to acquire strategies to reduce the time we are exposed to screens. It is true that as is our way of working and studying, it forces us to spend more hours than we would like in front of the computer and mobile, something that it seems that it is hardly in our power to reduce it, however, it is possible to apply changes and new daily habits that help us have a healthier relationship with new technologies.

These are a few strategies that we can apply to learn how to reduce the time we spend in front of the screens.

1. Do not use screens the hour before going to sleep

As we mentioned, the light from the screens negatively affects our circadian cycles. Although the ideal is not to have used a screen in the two hours before going to bed (it also applies to television), in practice this is rather complicated, so we must at least propose not to use screens in the hour before leaving to sleep.

Screens emit blue light, especially mobile phones, which suppresses melatonin levels, the hormone that controls sleep cycles. As a result, it may take us longer to fall asleep, our sleep is worse and we do not perform adequately the next day, in addition to running the risk of suffering depressive symptoms.

2. Set a screen break time

During the day we must establish times when electronic devices cannot be used, especially if they are hours of the day that we know that it is very unlikely that we will receive a notification of our work or studies. It is those moments when we have no obligations that we can use to free ourselves from the great presence that new technologies have in our lives.

Any time that goes well is perfect. For example, We can choose to do it during meals, committing ourselves not to use the cell phone or watch TV while we are eating. Calculating that it takes us about 20 minutes to make each meal, if we follow this rule per day we would have an assured hour and 20 minutes of screen rest.

For this to work it is very important to also extend it to other times of the day that do not require the presence of screens at all. If we go to the bathroom or go to the supermarket to do the shopping, we must avoid using the mobile in these situations. We do not need mobile phones to relieve ourselves, and we can memorize the shopping list or write it down on paper.

3. Set alerts for emails

If we are waiting for an email from work to arrive, it is possible that we are consulting it every two by three on our mobile to see if it has arrived. The problem with doing it is that we run the risk of being entertained with every glance we take, ending up in applications that are not so work-oriented such as social networks or video games. To avoid this, a good way is to put alerts to notify us when an email has arrived and leave the mobile out of our sight.

4. Change phone settings

Many of us are unable to detach ourselves from the phone. This is normal because they are enabled so that the colors of their applications captivate us and attract attention, causing us to spend more time glued to them. One way to avoid this is to change the screen colors to grayscale mode, making the applications not so attractive to us.

Another way is to activate the function of the time limit in front of the screen or, in case the mobile does not have it, download one of the many applications that offer this functionality. Every time we exceed the established time, a warning will appear or, depending on the application that we have installed, it may even happen that it does not let us use the mobile for a while.

It is a very good option to group social network applications in a folder that does not appear on the home screen, that is, they are a little more hidden. Although we will not be able to avoid using the mobile phone for work or studies, at least we can avoid using it to resort to social networks, which is, without a doubt, an important saving of exposure in front of the screen.

5. Print the documents

A good strategy to save vision problems is to print the documents, be they class notes or work reports. In both cases, having the documents printed It will allow us to turn off the computer for a moment and consult the texts in any part of the house or in a library, making our eyes rest of the blue light from the screen.

In the case of students, printing their notes has an advantage and that is that they can underline the text and make notifications, which make the knowledge settle better. It is true that this implies an economic expense and consumption of paper but, if they are important documents, using this strategy is worth it.

6. Rest every 60 minutes

To the extent that our work or classes allow us, we will have to take a short eye break every 60 minutes. To do this, we can take a quick walk inside the house or even on the street, of no more than 5 minutes to be able to continue with our obligations. We can also go to the bathroom to wash our face and hydrate our eyes a little.

If it is not possible for us to take breaks from time to time, a good alternative is that, when we are writing in a word processor, we look at the keyboard and check the text at the end. At the beginning we may make more mistakes, but with a little practice we will write perfectly, in addition, this option allows us to be working for hours at a time on the computer without the continuous effects of exposure to your screen.

Bibliographic references:

  • Park WK (2005) Mobile Phone Addiction. In: Mobile Communications. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, vol 31. Springer, London
  • Reagle, J. (2015). Following the Joneses: FOMO and conspicuous sociality. First Monday, 20 (10). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i10.6064
  • Stevens, R. G and Zhu, Y. (2015) Electric light, particularly at night, disrupts human circadian rhythmicity: is that a problem? Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B37020140120 http://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0120.

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