How much time is too much time online?
If you look at the news you’ll see that there’s a lot of talk about the negative effects of spending time online. But is spending time looking at a screen always bad?
Research shows that for many, spending some time online connecting with friends or doing creative tasks can be really positive. If you feel like the time you’re spending online is making you feel unhappy or having a negative impact on other parts of your life then it might be worth looking at some ways to cut down.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to figure out what works for you:
- How are you spending your time online? Lots of online activities can be really positive and help you develop new skills, connect with friends or develop critical thinking. How would you summarise the main ways you are spending time online?
- Is the time you’re spending online affecting other parts of your life? If your online time is cutting into time you spend with family or friends, making you lose sleep or making it hard to study then it might be worth looking at ways to manage it.
- How do you feel after you’ve spent time online? If you feel positive that’s a good sign, but if you’re coming away feeling upset, frustrated, bored or irritated then this could signal it might be a good idea to cut down.
Tips for cutting down on time online
1. Make a timetable
It’s easy to lose track of how much time you’re spending online. Lots of online games, apps and platforms are designed to keep you engaged for as long as possible. To help counter this, set up a schedule of how much time you want to be spending online. Setting up alarms can help you keep track of time and encourage you to take a break.
Some social media platforms have tools to help you keep track of time online and allow you to set up an alarm to notify you after a certain period of time. On the Facebook app, this is under “Settings & Privacy” and then select “Your time on Facebook”. For Instagram, go to “Settings” and then select “Your activity”.
2. Change your device settings
The devices and apps that you use have been created to be as engaging as possible. Even when you have put your phone down, alerts and notifications encourage you to pick it back up and keep scrolling. Thankfully many of these settings can be changed.
Turning off push notifications, changing your screen to greyscale mode, taking distracting apps off the front page of your home screen and downloading a screen time monitoring app are changes that encourage you to unplug.
3. Stop feeling pressured to respond to people
Are you feeling pressured to constantly respond to private messages or comments you’re tagged in? Busy group chats especially can start to seem like a part time job to keep up with!
Responding in your own time is okay and a few “what did I miss” messages in the group chat aren’t going to hurt. You could also change your settings temporarily, so people can’t see when you’ve been active on an app. Try changing the “show activity status” in your Instagram settings under “Privacy” and then “Activity Status”, or turn off “Active Status” in Facebook Messenger settings by clicking on your icon in the top left of the screen.
4. Cut down with a friend
It can be hard to cut down on how much time you’re spending on your device on your own. Try talking to a friend and see whether they’d be keen to cut down with you. It’s always easier to make a change when you’re not the only one doing it!
5. Leave your device outside the bedroom at night
Have you ever lost sleep because you’ve been sitting up until late checking your phone? One of the easiest ways to cut this habit is to buy an alarm clock and leave your phone outside your room when you’re sleeping at night.
6. Try out something new offline
Spending time online can be a great way to connect with people and develop new skills, but sometimes it can be nice to take a break and try out something new that doesn’t require you to be online. It could be teaching yourself a new skill such as drawing or playing an instrument, joining a sports team or even getting a new book out from your local library – anything that gives you a bit of a break from time spent online.
If you or someone you know needs help or advice about something that’s happened online, you can contact us seven days a week.
- Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282
- Fill out an online contact form
- Email email@example.com
- Call us free phone on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723).
Our helpline is open 8am – 8pm on weekdays and 9am – 5pm on weekends and public holidays.
If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, call 111.