How to Reduce Screen Time in 2023, According to Experts

  • Negative effects of excessive screen time include eye strain, brain fog, and anxiety.
  • Screen addiction is a growing concern among psychologists.
  • Psychologist Olivia Brouillette provides tips for those looking to cut down on screen time in 2023.

Olivia Brouillettea psychologist located in Den Haag, the Netherlands, feels confident that screen addiction will soon become an officially recognized form of addiction among psychologists.

“I do see this as becoming more of a legitimate addiction in the coming years and could see it being added to the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] and ICD [International Classification of Diseases],” she told Insider. “I see this type of screen addiction with people of all ages, both professionally and personally.”

Brouillette said that in addition to the physical signs of excessive screen time — which include sleep disturbances, eye strain, and headaches — there are mental signs to look out for, including “foggy brain — confusion, lack of focus and mental clarity — [and] difficulties with interacting with others face to face.” Because excessive self-comparison is associated with social-media usage, Brouillette said that people who spend a majority of their screen time on social media are at an increased risk for anxiety and depression.

Brouillette identified and shared seven ways that people worried about screen addiction can reduce their screen time.

Find your ‘why’

First and foremost, honing in on a reason to spend less time on screens will help.

“When you have a good reason why you want to do something, you’re more likely to keep it up,” Brouillette said.

Because of this, she believes that identifying a reason for starting a screen-reduction journey — for example, wanting to improve sleep habits — is one of the keys to achieving success.

Be specific

“Examine what you’re doing with your screen time and decide then on what limits you want to put on yourself,” Brouillette said.

These limits will vary from case to case. She gave an example, saying, “If most of your screen time is [spent] working during the day, but then when you finish, you scroll through social media for a few hours, focus on the social-media aspect.”

Brouillette recommends getting even more specific than simply deciding to cut certain apps or activities. “If you’re spending 4 hours on social media, try to limit it to 2 hours; use the time-limit function on your phone, if you have one, and give the code to someone you trust,” she said.

Setting specific, quantifiable goals can help screen-users track their progress and hold themselves accountable.

Use tools

“If you’re easily distracted by your phone,” she continued, “use it one of the focus apps to prevent you from opening up your phone. iPhone has a function optionbut there’s also apps where you grow trees or gardens and the longer you focus, the better the garden does, for example.”

Don’t do it alone

“Find someone to team up with you, like an accountability buddy,” Brouillette said.

Illustration of speech bubbles protruding from smartphones.

Illustration of speech bubbles protruding from smartphones.

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Find a replacement activity

“Find something else to do with your time — find a new hobby, find a good book you can read,” Brouillette recommended. A Huffington Post article lists 100 activities and tasks that can serve as screen time replacements.

Set realistic goals

“My biggest tip is to give yourself realistic goals to meet,” Brouillette said. “If you make your goals too big, you end up setting yourself up for failure and may even give up. Start with small, realistic goals and build them up over time.”

“It’s a marathon, not a race,” she added.

Persist through the challenges

When asked what people can expect when starting to cut down on screen time, Brouillette warned, “Honestly, expect boredom.”

“If you’re used to having your source of entertainment being connected to a screen, when you stop using that screen so much you will get bored,” she explained. “Just like how forming a habit takes time, breaking a habit will also take time.”

“This can feel frustrating to some people, but understanding that it will come with challenges and planning for those challenges can help reduce the frustration.”

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