How much is too much?

I’m not talking about hot n’ spicy pizza (I have no limits on that score) – I’m talking about screen time.

Smart Phone

Image available on Pixabay under a cco licence.

I started the Future Learn MOOC on digital wellbeing this week and it suggests a number of approaches to review how much time you (and by extension, the learners we try and help) spend online.

In an earlier post I shared some examples of what you might do to reduce your time online and ensure that the time you do spend is more productive. This week I also started using the screen time settings in iOS12 and wanted to share my observations a week in.

Online usage – what do you focus on?

First of all, I’m only tracking online use on my smart phone – no where else. If you want to review and reflect on a broader picture of the time you spend online the MOOC above has a ‘Screen Time’ logger spreadsheet (which you are free to copy) that covers areas such as gaming on consoles, using e-readers, watching streaming services and so on. This is a great activity to do with learners and the results can be quite surprising.

However, I just wanted to track my online use via my smart phone, for the following reasons:-

  • I work in the technology sector and a big part of my job is engaging with others online on a variety of platforms. I wanted to try and differentiate between my professional practice and my more personal practice with friends. Essentially, I didn’t want to beat myself up for spending too much time online when a large part of that time is doing my day job. However, I do fully appreciate that that distinction between professional and personal practice is never clear-cut.
  • The screen time settings on iOS 12 are accurate right down to the minute, which gives you a no-nonsense picture of your online usage. It also breaks down that usage by app category (see below), such as social networking, games, health and fitness, etc. Although if I’m honest (and I suspect this is true for many) I was particularly interested in how much time I spent on social networking apps. Recording your online usage via a spreadsheet, such as the one above, is a good start, but it’s more of a guide than a true picture – and one that is dependent on an individual’s memory to record their time accurately (and honestly!).

Screen time categories

  • iOS 12 takes screen time management a step further. As well as telling you how much time you are spending it also provides you with tools to set time limits on the categories above. Now this will be individual to the person – some people, for example, might be concerned about how much time they spend on gaming (I’m not), whereas for others it might be social networking or something else. You decide!

Observations

After a week of using the screen time settings I’m impressed by how effective a reality-check can be in modifying behaviour.

I was really surprised on day one by how much time I spend online, specifically on social networking. Every notification beep would result in a quick check of the phone; stopping what I was doing, opening up the app, reading the notification, browsing the feed whilst I was there, liking, replying, etc, etc – you get the idea. Factor in that level of ‘technoference’ happening every hour or so and, before you know it, it’s habit-forming.

I decided to set time limits for apps using the screen time settings, targeting social networking apps.

How much is too much? Well, that’s really for you to decide, but I would say be realistic. Once you hit the time limit for certain apps you do have the option to overide the limit. However, if you’re going to break your own rules what’s the point in having them in the first place?

I decided to set an hour for social networking apps.

Day two – I hit the hour time limit, but I resisted the temptation to overide the limit. Did I worry that I was missing out (commonly referred to as FOMO)? A little, if I’m honest, but perhaps it’s not so much a fear of missing out, but more of an anxiety of leaving things unfinished in some way.

Day three onwards – I didn’t hit the time limit (although I got close). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take this as confirmation that my experiment with screen time has been a success. It would be incredibly naive to assume that anyone’s behaviour is likely to change after only one week!

However, it’s an encouraging start – it’s also quite liberating once you get used to not checking your phone. I’m going to persevere with it for now and will review again after a month.

How much is too much for you?

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