Guide to screen addictions and responsible digital use

Have you been spending more time on your phone or laptop? The way we spend our time has been changing as a result of COVID-19. Whether it’s during a lock-down or as we adjust to new norms, it’s likely you’ve been spending more time on your devices.

An insight into screen reliance in the UK

During the national lockdown, people in the UK spent 40% of their day watching TV and online video services. The time spent on apps on Android devices increased 20% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, and consumer spending in both iOS and Google Play apps was up year-on-year 5% and 15% respectively. Data provided to Radio 1 Newsbeat showed overall phone usage was up by about 30% from pre-pandemic levels.

That’s a lot of screen time, especially given that research from before the pandemic reported that people already generally spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day. The top 20% of smartphone users spend upwards of four-and-a-half hours on their devices and few of us go longer than one hour and 43 minutes during the day without touching our phones.

Holly Niblett, Head of Digital takes us through how you can check your screen usage on your mobile device.

Holly says, “On an iPhone, you can check your screen usage by:

Going to settings

  • Tapping screen time

  • Tapping ‘See all activity’ under the graph

  • You can see usage, how many times a device was picked up and more

  • If you have other Apple devices and have turned on Share Across Devices, you can view overall usage across all devices signed in with your Apple ID and password

Android doesn’t offer a screen time feature by default like iOS, but there are ways to check your usage. If you’re using a Pixel device or a device that’s running Android One, you can check your screen usage with Digital Wellbeing:

  • Go to settings

  • Click Digital Wellbeing

If your device doesn’t support Digital Wellbeing, you can check screen time through power usage:

  • Go to settings

  • Click battery

  • Tap the 3-dot menu and go to battery usage

  • Tap the 3-dot menu and choose ‘Show full device usage’

Unfortunately it only shows screen time since the last charge. It doesn’t provide statistics on hours per day or week. To check and track daily screen time, you’d have to install a third-party app”.

Healthy habits to embrace

First things first, do you know why you end up staring at a screen? More often than not, we now turn to our phones, tablets, laptops and TVs out of habit. One of the first healthy habits to embrace is planning. If you can schedule dedicated parts of your day which don’t involve a screen, you’ll be reducing the amount of time you just end up in front of one. Some examples include:

  • Restricted use in the morning. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. That way you don’t even need to pick it up and you can have some time first thing – ideally an hour – without a screen.

  • Taking a proper lunch break. Do you use a screen for work? If so, having a lunch break away from any screen (including your phone) is a great idea. Plan a walk and just enjoy some fresh air or do an errand.

  • Meal times with your family or friends. If you’re spending time with people, it’s nice to be present. It sounds like something your parents will have told you as a teenager, but enjoying a dinner without devices is good for everyone involved.

  • Avoiding screens before bed. Looking at a screen too close to bedtime can impact how easily you’ll fall asleep, so it’s a key part of the day to cut down on your usage.

Source: Compare the Market and Ofcom.

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