How to limit screen time and social media time for kids and adults

Many parents may be wondering whether their kids are spending too much time staring at a screen. The new year is a great time to take inventory and reset expectations and limits on screen time for children and adults alike.

We spend a lot of time online. It has been a weird couple of years with the pandemic driving us even more to screens, but still, a Pew Research Center survey from earlier in 2021 found 31% of U.S. adults report they are online “almost constantly.” The percentages are even higher for those 18-49 years old and higher still for those in the 18-29 age bracket; 48% of them say they are “almost constantly” online.

If that seems like too much and cutting back is something you are considering, the first step is to know the facts. Find out exactly how much time you are spending on your phone. No need to download an app, most phones come with built-in systems that monitor screen time and can help you set limits.

Access Digital Wellbeing on your Android phone through Settings>Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls>Your Goals. Use this area to find out how you’re spending time on your phone. Then decide whether you’d like to set time limits for apps and designate which apps you can use during specific times dedicated to more important tasks.

Screen Time on iOS found in Settings>Screen Time also tracks everything you do on your phone and how long you take to do it. Set app time limits and schedule downtimes when you decide which apps (if any) will function.

Knowing where all your screen time is coming from can be helpful. Think quality over quantity. You may not be as concerned if you notice hours of your online usage isn’t mindless scrolling, but instead due to listening to educational podcasts or audiobooks.

But if you discover social media is sucking up most of your time and you’d like to get it back, you have options. Besides using the built-in tools for limiting usage, the two networks where we generally spend the most time have their own ways for you to stop the scroll.

A recent study by Uswitch found Americans dedicate nearly two weeks out of every year to social media and two networks are at the top of the list. The research found U.S. users are spending an average of 58 minutes a day on Facebook and 53 minutes each day on Instagram.

Check your time spent on Facebook by tapping the hamburger icon>Settings & Privacy>Settings>Your Time on Facebook. See how many minutes each day you are spending there, and if it’s more than you’d like, set some limits on yourself. From that same section in Settings, you can choose to set a Daily Time Reminder that will let you know when you’ve used Facebook for the amount of time you choose. Be mindful that this tracker only monitors the time you’ve spent on the app on your device and doesn’t take into consideration any time spent using Facebook online.

Earlier this month, Instagram launched “Take A Break” which asks users to step away from Instagram after they’ve been scrolling for a certain amount of time. You can choose to turn on the feature and set reminders that will ask you to take a break in the future. Go to your profile and tap the hamburger icon in the top right to get started. Then go to Time>Set reminder to take breaks and decide how often you’d like to see the break reminders. You can also choose to set a daily time limit for Instagram under the Time section of Settings.

“Early test results show that once teens set the reminders, more than 90% of them keep them on,” according to Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram in a blog post.

Instagram will give parents new tools in March to guide their teens’ experience on the app. Moms and dads will be able to see how much time kids are spending on Instagram and set limits for them.

You and your loved ones may have received new tech for Christmas. All of us can be glad time limits are easy to set and possible on nearly every device. Game consoles, phones and even individual apps like Instagram and Facebook give you the power to decide when to say when.

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