In my last article I wrote about how teens should set boundaries with technology. If you want to know why, you can go back and read that short article.
One of the most influential pieces of technology in human history has been the smartphone. I think the smartphone is brilliant and helpful, but it can quickly become toxic and harmful to our productivity, mental well being, and physical health.
In light of this, I wanted to suggest some ways we can start drawing boundaries with our phones and establishing healthy habits that will benefit us later in life. (Most of these will also work for other devices, even if you don’t have a smartphone yourself.)
1. Set Limits to How Much Time You Spend On Your Phone
Phones can be extremely distracting when trying to be productive. In order to curb your smartphone “addiction” and increase productivity and mental energy, consider limiting your phone usage in some shape or form. This may mean designating certain times of day to when you can use your phone or a specific app, or it may mean assigning an amount of time to each app on your phone. Or, it may require using one of your phone’s native features or downloading an app to help you manage your screen time and app usage. Two of my favorite productivity apps are Freedom and Forest. It may be worth researching how to best set usage limits on your own phone.
2. Don’t Take Your Phone to Bed with You
Sleep is incredibly important to your physical and mental health. I personally have discovered much of my mental health is connected to how well I sleep–and how well I sleep is connected (in part) to how much I use my phone at night or whether I keep it nearby while I sleep.
A good habit to develop is keep your phone away from your bed while you sleep. In fact, you may even want to try leaving it out of your room entirely. When you go to bed, leave it charging in your kitchen or living room. If you need to buy an old fashioned alarm clock, do it! Your sleep and mental health are worth it. I’ve heard author and pastor John Mark Comer advocate for what he calls “parenting your phone.” Think of your phone as a child that needs to be put to bed at night. Once you’ve “put your phone to bed” be sure not to disturb it, lest it wakes up and ruins the rest of your sleep!
3. Utilize the Evening Settings On Your Phone
It may be a good idea to try “putting your phone to bed” hours before you fall asleep yourself, but if that’s not possible, learn how to utilize your phone’s evening settings. This will include A. turning on blue light filters so your brain isn’t stimulated and starts to shut-down for sleep and B. activating “Do Not Disturb” so you don’t get notifications that will cause you to look at your phone more often. These can usually be set to automatically activate each evening, so you never have to remember to turn them on (or tempted to leave them off).
4. Deliberately Leave Your Phone In Another Room While Conversing
Not only can phones distract us from productivity and sleep, they can also distract us from the real, live, flesh-and-blood people around us. It can be incredibly tempting to pause a conversation in order to look at your phone (or simply to avoid an awkward silence). Press into and love the people around you by getting up and putting your phone on a shelf or even in an entirely other room whenever you are conversing with someone. This will speak volumes to your friends and family about how much you value your relationship with them.
5. Set Little Stumbling Blocks to Force You to Think About Your Phone Usage
I learned this trick from Catherine Price, the author of How to Break Up with Your Phone. She suggested, among other things, putting a rubber band around your phone so when you swipe to unlock it, your finger hits the rubber band and you are reminded to be thoughtful about what you’re doing on your phone. She also suggested putting thought-provoking questions on your lock screen so you are forced to think about your purpose in unlocking your phone. Are you about to do something time-wasting and mindless, or do you have a real, valid, helpful reason to go on your phone? These road blocks help us avoid using our phones mindlessly.
The goal behind all of these boundaries is to become acutely aware of why and how you are using your phone and establishing healthy boundaries so that your phone serves you and not the other way around.
As Christian young people, we want to be intentional and responsible in how we use the precious time God is giving us. This includes developing healthy relationships with our smartphones.
Do these boundaries sound hard or easy for you? Do you think they might be helpful in establishing a healthier relationship with your phone?