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  • Writer's pictureBePresent

Science-backed strategies for actually curbing your screen time addiction

Our mission at BePresent is to help you combat the addictive practices big tech and social media companies use to keep you on your phone. 

We built BePresent because we needed it — as older members of Gen Z, smartphones and social media have always been ubiquitous in our worlds. But that means we’ve seen the negative impacts that screen time and social media usage can have, especially on young people. 

Too much screen time can contribute to stress, anxiety, sleep issues and depression, and the concept of “addiction” to screen time is seen when we see people use it as a solution to boredom, or feeling stressed that their phone is out of range, the NIH found.

After trying to curb our usage ourselves, we realized the psychological practices big tech uses to keep you online can also be used to set healthy, mindful boundaries around phone usage. We replace the dopamine hits from scrolling with rewards earned by controlling your screen time and blocking time-sucking apps.  

BePresent also allows you to connect with accountability partners, choose which apps you can use during different times of the day and treats your habit-breaking like a game where you can earn points and badges, and climb a leaderboard. While it’s an amazing tool on a journey to a healthier relationship with your phone, let’s dive into some other strategies you can use for a well-rounded approach to this lifestyle change. 

Create physical distance from your phone

Leaving your phone behind when you leave the house or in another room when you go to bed may seem like an obvious habit, but it’s hard to adjust after years of the “phone, keys, wallet” mentality. 

Challenge yourself to take a walk or meet up with friends without bringing your phone along. Take note of how you feel in the moment, and all the things on your journey you noticed that you may not have if you’d been scrolling TikTok or Instagram along the way.

And when you are home, try leaving your phone in another room while you’re working, reading, cooking dinner or watching a movie. The more effort you have to make to track it down, the more focused you’ll stay with the activity at hand.

And when it’s time to go to bed, the light emitted by your phone really does screw with your body’s circadian rhythm. Coupled with incoming notifications or news updates, you’re setting yourself up for the opposite of a soothing sleep experience. Try leaving it in the next room over, or at the least, across the room from you, if you rely on it for an alarm clock. 

Make your phone boring AF

Of course we’re not banishing our smartphones all together, but when we do use them, we can have some strategies in place so we don’t get sucked in. The constant deluge of new content and notifications can make it feel like when we put our phone down, we may be missing out. 

But the truth is, this onslaught can overwhelm our nervous systems and make it even harder to break the routine of scrolling. Setting some boundaries on your actual device can help snap us out of this. 

BePresent’s app will alert you when you’re approaching your screen time limits, and encourage you to go phone-free for periods of time, but you can also add screen time limits to apps in your phone’s settings. You can also adjust notification settings into “work” or “personal” modes, or so that you aren’t alerted with every text or call that comes in. 

For folks really honing in on a healthier relationship with social media, we also suggest deleting the mobile apps entirely, and only checking in on a computer.

One final suggestion is to make your actual phone boring AF. Try out the grayscale setting and view everything through a black-and-white lens, or make your phone background a blank screen. 

Habit tracking as a social activity

In a recent poll, Gen Z outlines how much they prioritize digital wellness, saying they rank reducing screen time as more important than exercising and losing weight to their overall health. This generation understands the impact screen time has on their mental health, and if you’re looking to create a better relationship with your phone, you can bet your buddies will too. 

Getting an accountability buddy in BePresent’s app, or IRL is a great way to stay committed to redefining your relationship with your phone. And telling your friends at an outing that you’re trying to stay off your phone will make it easier to stick to it (and may influence others to join you). 

A mindset and lifestyle change 

You can get physical distance from your phone, change its settings and tell all your friends about the changes you’re making, but this work is also about some mental lifestyle adjustments. 

There can be a lot of FOMO around what you might miss when you’re not constantly on your phone, but all the important news updates and messages from friends and family can definitely be consumed in just a few minutes a day. And even if you miss a funny meme or viral tweet, think of all you’ve gained from not mindlessly consuming the remaining 99% of content that is utterly unimportant.


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