For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that you have no willpower whatsoever when it comes to limiting your use of social media. I make that assumption based upon first-hand, personal experience. If you are anything like me, you need help. Serious help. Thankfully, there are now settings on your phone to help you limit your screen time. This article will focus on the Apple Screen Time feature, but the concepts apply to any type of screen. For Android users, here is a great article about Android’s Digital Wellbeing.
1. Open Screen Time
Get ready to be humbled. Go to Settings > Screen Time and take a look. The initial screen shows your phone usage for today. Click anywhere on that initial section to get more details. This is where it gets interesting. See how much time you’ve spent on your phone today or for the past 7 days in areas like social media, productivity, and entertainment. Keep scrolling to see how many times you pick up your phone per day. I’m sharing some screenshots for embarrassment purposes. I pick up my phone 79 times a day. Jeez.
Now that you’re thoroughly embarrassed, let’s set some limits to this time suck.
2. Set Downtime
Downtime limits access to all apps on your phone except for those you choose to allow (see step 4) for a predetermined time period. I have set this every day from 6pm to 6am. That means, that I can only access a few apps and everything else will be unavailable. I do 6pm because that’s around the time dinner begins followed by bedtime routine for the kids. I found myself constantly checking my phone during dinner and bath time. With my kids. That’s horrible. This limits that. I chose 6am as the end period because I wake up before that time. I don’t want to look at my phone as my very first action of the day. This helps limit that.
Good rule of thumb here. Set downtime to start around the time where you should be fully present with your loved ones. Set it to end after you have woken up so that you don’t immediately check your phone in the morning.
3. Set App Limits
Here is where you can set specific time limits for categories of apps. I have set an overall time limit of 30 minutes per day for social media. This includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Messenger. You can also set limits for other categories such as entertainment, games, and creativity.
4. Allow Certain Apps
If this whole idea has you breaking out in hives, fear not, you can set certain apps to always be allowed. For example, I track purchase of gas for my car in a certain app. I’ve set that to always be allowed because I mostly purchase gas after 6pm, so I need to have that app accessible. Go through and add the apps that you’ll legitimately need. Don’t cheat here!!
5. Set this to apply across devices
If you have an iPhone and an iPad, you can enable this feature to apply these limits across all of your devices. This is important for people like me who go through their 30 minutes on their iPhone and then switch to their iPad for more social media time. This makes the time cumulative.
Bonus. For the Truly Brave
One problem with these settings is that they are easily bypassed. If you’ve hit your social media limit for the day and try to access an app, you are shown a lame message like – are you sure you want to do this? If you say yes, you get access, for 15 min or the rest of the day. Your choice. I end up cheating because of this setting. For the truly brave, enable the Use Screen Time Passcode setting. But here’s the trick. You don’t get to set the passcode. You must hand the phone to your significant other or a good friend and have them put in a passcode. Now, if you try to bypass your settings, you’ll have to go through the embarrassment of asking the person for the code.
How will this benefit my life?
In a few ways:
- You’ll stop asking people who read a lot how they find time to read a lot.
- This may seem wild, but when you limit social media to 30 minutes a day, you actually make better decisions on how to utilize your time on the platforms. You don’t just mindlessly browse. You browse with a purpose.
- You’ll be present for the most important things in life. Those things are most-definitely not on your phone.