Continuing my 52 Ways to Well-being series, with simple, sensible, evidence-based tips to improve well-being and bring control into your life, I bring you the important advice to switch off screens. Not always – they’re wonderful things! – but sometimes.
In The Teenage Guide to Life Online (out now and with an extended extract in the Mail at the weekend) I explain my insights into the science behind the positives and negatives that our screens can bring, particularly when internet-enabled, and that gives all the reasons why switching off screens sometimes is necessary for well-being. There’s nothing wrong with screens – they’re amazingly useful things – except that it’s all too easy to use them for too long. So I’m not saying switch them off all the time, or even a lot, just sometimes and just enough.
But what is “enough”? When should we switch our screens off? How do we know when we need to?
Here’s my advice.
- If you’ve been using a screen (any screen, including smartphone) for the last hour, take a break. Switch off, get up and go and do something else for a few minutes.
- Has your phone been in your hand or in your sight constantly for the last hour? Switch it off, put it out of sight and go and do something else for a few minutes.
- Have you spent an hour (at least) today on any of these things: reading a book, chatting face-to-face with friends, sport (watching live or participating), physical exercise such as walking, cooking, or a hobby of any sort? If not, do one of those things or something like it, something that doesn’t involve a screen – you need it.
- Is there something going on online that’s making you feel stressed/angry/upset/jealous/worthless? Switch off, walk away and get your mind engaged on something offline – book, hobby, sport, friends, even TV. (I know TV is on a screen but the problem with some screens is that they bring stressful messages: TV doesn’t.)
- Do you have work to do that you want to do well and quickly or something you need to concentrate on? Switch off everything that you don’t need for that work and close down all non-relevant Apps: you WILL do your work better and more quickly. All the evidence shows this.
- Are you with a friend who wants to talk to you or that you want to talk to? Switch off. Having a phone present makes the conversation shallower and is distracting.
- Are you getting ready for bed or intending/wanting to in the next 1.5-2 hours? This is one time to switch off.
For all the details about why, see The Teenage Guide to Life Online. (That link also has a link to my free teaching notes for schools.) And note that it’s not just for teenagers. In fact, it should have been called Everyone’s Guide to Life Online!
For the rest of the 52 Ways to Well-being series, put “52 ways” into the search box at the top of this page.
I’ll be speaking about this at the Bradford Literature Festival on Tuesday July 3rd. Do come!