How to reduce screen time

Many of us are aware of how excessive screen time can affect us – both physically and mentally – but it can be hard to know what to do about it. In a world where so much of our lives are dominated by screens, it’s not always easy to find ways to cut back on screen time without compromising on productivity, enjoyment and efficiency. Eye drops such as TheraTears® Screen Eye Protection can refresh and hydrate dry or tired eyes from extended screen use, but it’s also a good idea to reduce your screen time where possible. So what can you do?[1]

How much screen time is healthy for eyes?

Although having a target for the maximum amount of screen time you should have in a day may be useful for changing your behaviour, the issue isn’t as clear-cut as that. Part of the reason why it’s hard to put a number on it is that institutions acknowledge that many of us are restricted in how much screen time we can avoid. For example, if your job involves working at a computer for seven hours a day, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid using screens for much of that time.[1]

For children, who are less likely to be constrained in this way, it’s generally recommended that they stick to two hours or less of screen time per day.[2] It may be beneficial for adults to try and get as close to this as they can on weekends, for example, and in free time. For example, you might try to reduce your screen time at work where you can, and then focus on getting less than two hours of screen time outside of work. For many, this is a more manageable goal – and reducing your screen time in any way is likely to have a beneficial impact on your health and wellbeing.[1]

How can I reduce screen time?

To begin with, let’s look at ways you can reduce your screen time on days off from work or in your leisure time – i.e. any time where you have as much freedom as possible when it comes to deciding whether or not to use a screen.

  • Read physical books instead of eBooks

Although it might seem like an inconsequential difference, choosing to read a physical book instead of an eBook can reduce your screen time significantly. Even if you only read for half an hour a day, that’s three and a half hours over the course of a week – and every small increment makes a difference.

Apply this to other forms of reading as well. For example, use a recipe book instead of reading recipes off your phone screen, or plan your week on paper rather than digitally. You can always add the finished schedules, lists and plans to your devices afterwards, but spending that extra deliberation time away from a screen can help to have an effect.

  • Treat TV like a cinema trip

Most of the time when we go to a cinema, we watch a film, then leave to have a meal or go home. We don’t often stay on to watch another film. But when we’re at home, it’s much easier to stay and watch the next episode or see what’s on the other channel – and then the whole evening has gone by. Instead, why not treat it like a cinema trip and watch one to two hours, then do something else?

By doing this, we can also watch more intentionally. If you only have two hours to watch something, you’ll make it the show or film you really want to see, not the filler content you watch just to pass the time.

  • Designate screen-free areas, events and times

Some people prefer not to use their screens in their bedrooms, as it can affect your sleep.[3] This is a great practice to get into, as it can help you to get used to spending more time without a screen. You can also schedule screen-free events – for example, no screens at mealtimes or taking walks outside where you use your phone only for calls, photos or music. You might also try no-screen hours. For example, some people don’t use their screens until after they’ve had breakfast, or avoid screen time after 9pm. 

How to reduce screen time at work

What about those times when you can’t just switch off your screen? Whether you use computers for work or study, it’s sometimes unavoidable to spend a long time staring at a screen – but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for reducing screen time.

  • Audit your tasks

Can that brainstorming be done on paper rather than electronically? Could that meeting be a phone call or, better yet, a chat while walking outside the office? Can you print out that hefty PDF you need to read? While at first it can be difficult to find ways to switch out your screen time, it can be done. Try not to think too much about how much screen time you’re actually getting rid of, and instead consider each swap a win.

  • Make the most of your breaks

While it can be tempting to while away your breaks scrolling through social media, this compounds your screen time and can often be mentally draining. Instead, why not take a few minutes to step away from the screens, stretch your legs and maybe even get a breath of fresh air and some sunlight?

  • Use fewer screens

At times, we can find ourselves using as many as three or four screens at once – our phone, our laptop, a second monitor and even a TV. This isn’t great for your concentration and productivity, and it’s no good for your eyes either. Try to minimise it to just one form of screen time in each block of time. You may need two screens to get your work done efficiently, but at least you won’t be straining your eyes with two more screens on top of that.

All in all, reducing your screen time isn’t about hitting that magic number of allowable hours. The key is progress – and every bit of improvement matters to your mental and physical health. Even if you can’t reduce your screen time to less than two hours a day, cutting it down just a little can mean you don’t need to reach for the eye drops quite so often.







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Dr Simon Cooper

Dr Simon Cooper

Working with the TheraTears marketing team, as well as with a number of other Prestige Brands, Dr Simon Cooper brings extensive knowledge and experience in a number of key areas. With a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, and before that a BA in biological sciences from the University of Oxford, he brings immense technical expertise.

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