How to Reduce Screen Time | Simple Ideas On What To Do Instead

October 30, 2022

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I know you have all wondered how to reduce screen time for your kids but have you ever looked at how much screen time you use every day? I dove in deep and tracked the use of screen time for myself and for my kiddos over the past month. The outcome of what I found could be the magic ticket to keeping your motherhood in the sweet spot between too much screen time and using technology for the benefits that we all love.

Get a pen and paper because you are going to want to take notes on the actual steps I lay out on where to find incredibly meaningful data in your iPhone on app usage. These telling numbers are no secret, it’s all there in your phone but knowing what to do with it is another thing. I’m breaking down an entire system on reducing screen time for you and for your kiddos in this very episode.

Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast

You know, it’s not uncommon for me to read in Facebook groups that other moms are looking for ways to cut back on screen time and do not know where to start. It’s also not uncommon to see families out at dinner with a tablet or phone for each child at the table. And it’s not uncommon for us in our own homes to have the television on during dinner. There’s a guy named Adam Leventhal. He’s a professor of preventative medicine and psychology, and also the director of the USC Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. One of the studies that he did statistically shows that teens who are exposed to higher levels of digital media were significantly more likely to develop ADHD symptoms in the future. This is not a future I want for my children, and if you are reading this, NEITHER DO YOU!!!

I will say this is pretty jampacked with steps on exactly what to click on and everything that you can utilize within the settings and your iPhones (sorry Android Users. I don’t know much about your software) to help manage and support your ideas when it comes to screen time in your life and your kiddos.

With all of that said, I am going to just jump right into what I do now to reduce the amount of time that I am on my phone and share with you some of the incredible things that are in the iPhone that you can utilize to track your usage and even force yourself to not have

The Very First Step to Reducing Your Screen Time – Your iPhone Settings

The very first thing to do in order to reduce your screen time is to take a look into your SETTINGS on your iPhone. From there, click on Screen Time. Within the DAILY AVERAGE section, click the arrow facing right, which reveals all screen time activity. This will show you complete screen time usage and specific screen time activity used on your phone.

From this screen you can toggle between week or day and view your cell phone usage based on productivity, social networking, and all sorts of other things. Additionally, it will display your most used apps and how much time these apps have been used throughout the day. Another really great thing your iPhone settings can reveal is the exact number of times you picked up your phone during the day.

And from there, it shows you after you’ve picked up your phone, the app that you went to first, like it legit, has a breakdown.

It literally has every single time you have opened your phone, what app you went to first, and if you click on that app. It will show you your daily average of pickups, how many times you pick up to interact with that specific app, and it shows you the time frame of the day that you’re doing that.

Understanding Your Cell Phone Usage

It also shows you how many notifications for that day have come in from that specific app. So the notifications that I get per hour this is linked per hour on Instagram. On average, daily is about 18. So if I respond to those 18 prompts every single day and say, I spend five minutes per interaction into those notifications, I’m not a mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that’s a whole heck of a lot of time.

You can see how all of these insights really start to hit you smack in the face on what it is that you’re doing on your phone. That’s when you get to make the hard decision on whether or not that’s how you want to be spending your time, let alone thinking about how this is actually impacting, the way you carry yourself throughout the day, the way you’re engaging with the world around you, the way that you’re utilizing your emotional and social well being just within the community that you live in. So this is super important.

How to Set Limits on Screen Time Usage

Here’s what I did with all that information. When you go into SETTINGS, and scroll to SCREEN TIME towards the middle of the screen, you’ve got a couple of options. You have the option to set up your phone to have DOWNTIME. You also have the option to set TIME LIMITS within your apps. There’s even an option to set up Communication Limits, which means anything applied to your phone, FaceTime, Messages and iCloud contacts can be limited.

The first way I started was by setting APP LIMITS on my phone. I allowed myself an hour a day of social media, so that included Instagram and Facebook. On the weekends, since it doesn’t allow you to set an app limit for zero minutes, I set it for 1 minute on Saturday and Sunday, which means I basically just don’t even use it. When I did that, it was very successful in keeping me under my 1 hour limit on Instagram. It was successful for the first two and a half or three weeks.

Using App Limitations Wisely

When you set an app limit and you have reached your limit of time for that day, you’ve consumed the entire hour. What happens to the app is it grays out. You can still tap on it, and when you open it up, a screen pops up that says Time Limit. You’ve reached your limit on Facebook or you’ve reached your limit on Instagram. You can either click the big blue button that says, OK, thanks for letting me know. I’ve hit my limit. Bummer. Okay, thank you. And you don’t go into it. Or you can hit the little non-highlighted button underneath that says Ignore Limit. Then a screen pops up that says Ignore limit for one more minute. Remind Me in 15 Minutes or Ignore The Limit for today every single day. Last week, I ignored the limit for today. Like, that was the option that I picked. I hit Ignore limit, and then I said Ignore limit for today because my brain told me that I would not abuse it since I’ve been so good at only utilizing it for an hour. And I ignored the time limits. And I went in and I was like, I’m just going to do this one thing. I just need to find this one thing. There was a message that somebody sent me, and it was important, and I need to send an email about it.

Guess what happened, every single time I got sucked in. So you stay on there for hours. They’re geniuses, but we need to know how this stuff works. We need to know what it’s doing to our brains. We need to know how it is ruining our motherhood, our productivity, our ability to engage with our babies, our ability to engage with the people at the grocery store, and our ability to keep our hands on the wheel when we’re driving. We need to know how this stuff is working.

Check your Screen Time

Please go into your SETTINGS on your iPhone, click on SCREEN TIME and look at what is happening. If you are spending multiple hours a day on your screen time, multiple hours a day in a specific app and you do not want to be and you do not need to be, set an app limit for yourself. Here’s the other option and this is what I have resulted to now, setting a DOWNTIME on your phone is going to be extremely easy for you. It becomes very complicated for me because of my husband’s schedule and my schedule never being the same, but it is a completely beneficial tool and has helped me to get extremely consistent with how I’m utilizing my phone for my business versus my personal life.

When you go into your SETTINGS and then SCREEN TIME, there’s a little button that says DOWNTIME and you can either click DOWNTIME for every single day from this time to this time or you can Customize It. My DOWNTIME on my phone is on the weekends. It’s all day, all day long. Now when you set a scheduled time for downtime, it’s for you to literally be away from your screen and during your downtime, only apps that you choose to allow and phone calls will be available. So if you want to shut down your phone in its entirety, you can set it up to where you will still get phone calls from either all your contacts or a specific set of individuals. There is an option for Always Allowed and that is where you get to specifically tell your phone what apps are always allowed, even when your phone is in downtime.

These are the things that I have set up on my phone to be able to help me get serious control over how I’m utilizing my phone.

Helpful Tips to Reduce Screen Time Usage

  1. Take your apps off of your home screen so they shouldn’t be the first thing on your home screen. That way, even if you just have to go into your phone to respond to a text message, you don’t immediately just see the apps. That is especially social media.
  2. Turn off your notifications. There is a caveat to that. I will say that turning off notifications on your phone is a beautiful thing. It’s an amazing thing because if you’re not alerted to it, you’re less likely to go over and pick it up. But I will say that when I turn off the notifications, I’m not drawn to it as much.
  3. Set business times for yourself. If you are utilizing Social Media to be able to grow and scale and interact and nurture a community online for your business, set work hours, utilize it as a tool and as a tool only.

How to reduce screen time for your kids & what to do instead

As we have this conversation about our kiddos, let me just say this, I strongly believe that in your heart of hearts, you know whether or not your kids are utilizing their iPads and their phones and cartoons and movies too often. But if you need a set of questions to help yourself know if they are having too much screen time, here are a few for you to consider.

Some of the things that I have encouraged others to think about and I thought about myself were:

  1. What background words and messages do I want for my children, the subliminal messaging that is happening in your children’s lives?
  2. What do you want that to sound like and what do you want that to look like?
  3. Are the current habits and received messages that they are receiving leading us and them as they get older into the messaging that I want them to hear? I say this because you may think it’s fine now that they’re watching all of the Disney shows and all of the apps that seem harmless and that aren’t exposing them to, quote, unquote negative information. But is it always going to stay that way if the current habits that they have in place right now with screen time are still there as they grow?
  4. Are they dependent on a screen?
  5. Can they play without it?
  6. Can they play without a movie on?
  7. Can they have dinner without a phone?
  8. Are you capable of sitting around the table without the TV?
  9. Am I using it to replace love and creativity that I’m too busy to give my kiddos that I want to be giving them?
  10. How often are you utilizing technology to replace what you believe you should be doing as a parent?
  11. Is it discouraging reading time or creative play?
  12. Do my children have noticeably shortened attention spans?
  13. Are they capable of getting through an activity without constant stimulation?
  14. Can they sit still?

So these are some of the questions that I asked myself and I found hard answers to. And this is what I did to reduce the amount of screen time that they have and what we did instead of using screens.

Create a List

With the oldest daughter, who is seven, what we chose to do is we sat down and we built a before videos list. Right now, since it’s new and we’re transitioning, this list is compiled of things that my husband and I and herself – she was involved in making the list- talked about and agreed on. The list is what things she could do before sitting and watching video games, things that she really loves. On that list, there is playing her violin, reading a chapter in a chapter book, making her Tube Dolls (she has a community of little dolls that she makes out of toilet paper tubes and she’s obsessed with them), a drawing, colouring, journaling, listening to music, doing yoga, playing in the backyard, playing Barbies, making money off of your chore list, or playing a game with mom and dad.

“I want you to know that your children and your own heart space are worth the time and energy that it takes to manage how you are utilizing screens in your home.”

Also at the top of that list, there is a what has to be done before videos. So what has to be done is she has to be caught up on homework, her bed has to be made, and all of her dirty clothes have to be picked up off the floor and put in her hamper. Those are the things that we’re really trying to get instilled in her right now and she has to have them done before she can use the iPad.

With this list of things that she can do before she uses the iPad, she gets to pick any one thing from that activity to do, and we set a timer for 20 minutes. If she does that activity for 20 minutes, then if her bed is made and her homework is caught up and the dirty clothes are picked up off the floor after those 20 minutes, then she can move into videos. What happens most of the time is she gets so caught up in those activities that she’s doing that she decides that she wants to keep doing it and it has minimized the amount of time that she sits and watches videos on her iPad.

This list that we have created has really been a beautiful system for us to be able to help reduce how much time she’s using her iPad. And since we don’t ever let her have it during the week anyway, for us being able to track how often is she on her iPad, it’s still pretty much every weekend. Sometimes it’s not. But I do know that she’s not sitting on it for hours like she used to. My other hope with this is that it begins to train her to see the joy in other creative activities so that when she goes over to her other home and she wants to just go straight to technology we are building a bank of memory in her mind of other activities that she can do that really light her up and give her reward other than just the stimulation of the iPad.

Reducing screen time for little ones

Now I’m going to talk to you about the little one, about Bailey Mae. So what we have done to reduce screen time for her is making sure that at minimum, for me, the goal is that three days a week, she gets one on one structured play with myself or my husband. This means in our morning block of time after Sissy goes to school and we come home, that time is not a time to be putting on the television. That is a time when we get out all the Montessori activities, and all the preschool activities or we take her to the park. That’s my husband’s thing. He really likes to do that. He also loves to teach colours and numbers and shapes and things like that with her so sometimes he’ll do that. Making sure that we are putting it in our calendar that we want that to be done with her has drastically reduced the amount of time she gets screen time. On the other two days, she’s allowed to sit and watch cartoons if she wants. And for me, as a mental note, in my mind, I make sure that it is turned off before lunch and then she doesn’t get it the rest of the day.

Everyone is in a different place with this right now. And that is the beauty of it, right? The beautiful part of this is that we’re having a conversation. Yes, me and you, right now we’re having a conversation.

This conversation should help you to brainstorm where you are and where you want to be and how you can get there, but truly utilize a system as we have of sitting down with your spouse and talking about what is ideal for you. Then you’re going to start with incremental steps.

Things that you can do to replace screen time

Even though it requires more work from us, is to just GET OUTSIDE, and set up a specific time of day. Even if you guys just start doing this once a week, look at the heavy times of usage for your kids in screen time and intervene. Be there for your children. Help them to grow in their hearts and in their minds outside of what is on a screen, it’s okay to use them. I get it. And I know that there is a way for you to structure your day to where you can be getting things done with your kids. Start asking your kids to come and clean and cook with you. Those have been the two biggest game changers most of the time when I want to cook and want to clean. For most parents, what do they want? They want their kids to go away so they can hurry up and get it done. If it meant reducing 2 hours of screen time a day, if you clean an hour a day and you cook an hour a day, we’re all doing that. That’s typically when you have your kids on screens, just have them come and do it with you. The joy in their lives and the language that you get to teach them, the patience and the turn taking. There are just so much and just life skills that they will appreciate and use early on.

Another thing that you can replace technology with MUSIC. What are your kids’ favorite stations on Pandora? Do you have the little Alexa Lady in your house? You could just tell her, tell her what to play, put music on, dance with your kids, sing with your kids and have fun. I do utilize this a lot It’s the first go to when I’m feeling that itch and it totally helps entertain them. We dance and we sing and we play.

Switch it Up

Lastly, just switch it up with books, get interactive with your kids, and take them outside.

I want you to know that this is something that I feel so strongly about that I’m almost moved. I am moved, actually. My eyes are welling up with tears because I want you to know that your children and your own heart space are worth the time and energy that it takes to manage how you are utilizing screens in your home. I hope so much that all of the information that I have given you has been useful. I know it was a lot to take in.

I would love to know what you think about it and here’s my challenge for you, I know that you believe in what I’m talking about and this weekend, like every weekend, I completely unplugged. I remove apps like I said, and I want you to do it with me. I want you to utilize technology, but I want you to challenge yourself to completely shut down your phone from Friday night until Monday morning. It has been the most beautiful experience and I got it from my mentor and my coach, Stephanie Gass. She talks about it all the time and when she started doing it, I was like, Yo, if she can run a business and she doesn’t have to be on social on the weekend, Clearly I can, right? And she’s not the only one. There are people doing it all over and so I started doing it and it’s been the most beautiful experience. It refreshes me, it rejuvenates, it frees me. It truly frees me and I want that for you too.

I am looking forward to connecting with you in my FREE Facebook Community Group with many other moms who are just like you. Join us as we Systemize our lives, homes, motherhood, and business in order to live a productive life. See you soon mama.

simple ideas on reducing screen time

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have any other tips for working from home with toddlers?

Sure do! Check out my blog and podcast on steps for a fun productive morning block with toddlers. I would also suggest joining join my Systemize Your Life Academy to learn about how my block system can help in productivity.

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