Are you worried that you’ve been spending too much time on your phone? It may be more helpful to look at how you’re using it, rather than how much, says Kara Brisson-Boivin, director of research at the Ottawa-based digital and media literacy centre MediaSmarts.
“We’re more interested in asking the question of quality, as opposed to quantity,” she says.
Spending hours on your phone reading, or communicating with your friends and building relationships can be beneficial, whereas spending the same amount of time playing Angry Birds is probably not the best use of your device, says Brisson-Boivin, who is also an adjunct research professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University. Plus, attempting to quit using your phone isn’t exactly realistic, especially when your social life and school work depend on it.
Still, if you’re trying to achieve a better balance between your digital and IRL worlds, it helps to get your family on board, Brisson-Boivin says. Not only can your parents help hold you accountable, you can keep their excessive phone use in check, too.
First, she suggests challenging your family members to keep a digital journal, for which each of you log everything you do on your devices for a full week. At the end of the week, compare your journals, and together, create rules and consequences to set limits on your phone use. For example, anyone checking his or her phone during family time has to take out the garbage or do the dishes.
“Typically, from our experience, kids love that they can possibly catch Mom and Dad checking an e-mail at a time they’re not supposed to be,” Brisson-Boivin says.
Second, she says it’s helpful to adopt a digital curfew, or “digital sunset,” where everyone puts away their devices near the end of the day. If your parents’ jobs demand that they be online in the evenings, perhaps you can talk them into at least putting their devices down on weekend nights, or for an hour or two until you’ve gone to bed.
“The idea of a digital curfew – even if it’s a couple of nights a week – goes a long way toward digital wellness in families,” Brisson-Boivin says.
To make sure everyone complies, try establishing a family charging station or having a designated basket into which everyone puts their devices when they’re not in use. That way, you can easily spot when a phone is missing, she says.
And importantly, look for alternative meaningful social activities that don’t require using your phone. Take the dog out for a walk, for example, or go to the movies with your friends, Brisson-Boivin suggests.
If you’re going to take a break from your device, why not enjoy it?