6 Ways to Cut Back On Phone Time

Woman on cell phone

May 09, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Kathleen Croll, APN

How often do you reach for your smartphone? If you’re like the average American, you probably pick up your phone dozens of times daily. 

“Now that cell phones can do so much more than make phone calls, people are enticed to check their phones throughout the day for external stimulation – to see if someone responded to their texts, to find out who liked their social media posts, to play games while waiting in line at the supermarket," says internal medicine specialist, Kathleen Croll, APN. “But excessive amounts of time spent on your phone may take away from time that you could have spent focusing on your health.”

Reasons to cut back on phone time

Too much smartphone usage may cause:

  • Increased risk of digital eye strain 
  • Unsafe driving practices
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Depression and anxiety

Some studies have shown that placing your phone on the dinner table – even if you aren’t using it – decreases the quality of conversations; its presence reminds everyone that you may be interrupted at any moment by a notification.

You may not realize how often, or how long, you look at your phone unless you track your habits, which is an available feature on many smartphones. 

“It’s common for someone to pick up their phone because of an alert, and before they put it down, they check their social media accounts, followed by text messages, email accounts and favorite games in a specific order,” Kathleen says. “It’s rare that someone picks up their phone and only uses it for a few seconds.”

Habits to help you reduce phone time

Spending less time on your phone may:

  • Improve your mood
  • Inspire you to care less about what others think or do
  • Nurture deeper conversations with friends and family
  • Provide more time to exercise
  • Enable better sleep habits

Try these strategies to spend less time on your phone every day:

  1. Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature. You can block off hours when you don’t want your phone to buzz or light up, so that you don’t pay attention to your device. It’s ideal for nighttime hours when you normally sleep. You can also use it at work or during family time.
  2. Turn off notifications. You won’t get alerts tempting you to look at your phone whenever someone likes your Instagram posts, comments on your Facebook status or takes a turn on Words With Friends. Instead of having your day constantly disrupted, you can choose when to check your phone.
  3. Turn your homescreen gray. The bright red alerts that let you know how many unread texts you have will appear as dull as the rest of the icons on your screen. Different apps may be less likely to catch your eye and encourage you to stay on your phone.
  4. Keep your phone out of your bedroom. You won’t be tempted to text, doom scroll or look up obscure facts in the middle of the night. To officially kick your phone out of the bedroom, use a separate alarm clock, instead of the one on your phone.
  5. Ban your phone from the table. Whether you’re seeing friends for lunch or dining with family, put your phone in your pocket, your purse or in another room. You’ll spend more time in the moment and less time on your device.
  6. Set limits for yourself. If you know that you have a tendency to scroll longer than you intend to, set a 5-minute timer whenever you go on social media, and put down your phone when it beeps. Or set daily time limits for yourself on high-interest apps, on Apple devices you can do this through the Screen Time setting under System Preferences, or use an app like Digital Wellbeing to set limitations.

Next Steps & Resources:


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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