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Family all on their phones

How to cut down on screen time

We spend - on average - 2 hours 28 minutes* a day on our smartphones. Shocked?

Research by Ofcom found that 15% of UK adults feel they are always at work because of constant phone access. More than half admit that their devices interrupt face-to-face conversations with loved ones. 

If you’re worried about spending too much time on your phone, here are some things you could do instead.

How much time should we spend on our phones?

Currently, there are no set guidelines from the NHS on how much screen time adults should have. Experts suggest that it’s more important to find a balance between screen-based and non-screen activities. If you find yourself drawn to your phone when you’re having a conversation with someone, for example, that might suggest the balance is off.

The NHS recommends that children should have no screen time until age 2, and for no more than an hour a day after age 2. The NHS doesn't have any recommendations for children aged 5-17, but some research suggests they should spend no more than 2 hours in front of a screen.

How to cut down on screen time

If you’re looking to become less reliant on your phone (or other device), here are our top tips to help you avoid using it.

  • Keep track of how much time you actually spend using it. You can easily monitor screen time with Apple’s built-in feature, or for Android you can download Google’s Digital Wellbeing app

  • Set usage limits. You can do this in your settings in Apple, or through the Digital Wellbeing app for Android

  • Delete any apps that make you feel stressed, or take up too much of your time (you can always reinstall them later)

  • Disable notifications to stop your device from distracting you

  • Put it in another room – out of sight, out of mind

  • Find other things to do instead…

7 things to do instead of going on your phone

If you’re worried that you or your family are spending too much time on your phones, here are some things you could do instead…

1. Read a book

Books encourage relaxation and also hone your ability to concentrate. Reading books may also have further health benefits. A Yale School of Public Health study found that adults who read for three and a half hours per week or more could expect to have a longer lifespan than those who did not read books. Try a book swap with a friend to expand your library for free.

2. Develop your skills

You’ll find you have more free time as you use your phone less. Invest it into developing your skills, especially if there’s any you haven’t kept up with. Dedicate time to practicing the skill that you’ve been ‘too busy’ for.

You could also try learning something new. You could meet with a friend to learn a new skill together or to teach one another a skill you already have.  As we get older, learning new skills can help keep the brain active and stave off age-related cognitive decline. A new instrument, language, life skill or even how to play a new board game could help to keep your mind sharp.

3. Take up exercise

Instead of sitting on the sofa staring at your phone, get moving. Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to all kinds of health problems. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. So, put down your phone and get moving.

If you’re new to exercise, challenge yourself to walk more each week. Walking for just 10 minutes a day can have health benefits. Try going for a jog if you’re feeling more confident. If it’s possible in your area, and safe for you to do so, consider signing up to an exercise class.

4. Have a conversation

When we have our eyes down on our phones, it’s a signal to whoever we’re with that we’re not properly listening. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that having little face-to-face social contact nearly doubled older adults’ risk of depression. Try putting your phone to one side and giving your full attention to who you’re speaking to.

5. Get some sleep

More than a third of people look at their phones just before going to sleep. But the light the devices emit can suppress the body’s production of melatonin – the sleep hormone. Putting down your phone an hour or so before bedtime is recommended in order not to disrupt your sleep cycle. This can ensure you have the rest your body needs to be healthy.

6. Look after your posture

According to the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), 22% of people have experienced back pain after using a smartphone. So rather than hunching over a device, do some simple stretches. You could even book in for a yoga or Pilates class.

7. Get out into nature

Nature can’t be fully accessed via mobile phones or screens. It is best experienced through being out in the world and using all five senses. Nature-deficit disorder has been identified as a growing phenomenon among children. However, adults also benefit from time in natural environments.

Positive ways to use your phone (and other devices)

Cutting down your screen time doesn’t mean swearing off all technology. There are plenty of healthy things you can do using your devices, such as

  • Connecting with loved ones using video call

  • Learning a new skill on YouTube, or apps like DuoLingo or SkillsShare

  • Checking in with your mental health, with apps like Headspace

  • Boosting your wellbeing with online classes. Remember, if you’re a Benenden Health member, you can access free online wellbeing classes and advice on diet and nutrition, mindfulness and exercise sessions too. Download the Benenden Health app.


About our healthcare

Benenden Health provides affordable private healthcare for everyone, giving you access to services such as our 24/7 GP Helpline and Mental Health Helpline straight away. Once you’ve been a member for six months you can request access to diagnostic consultations and tests. 

You'll also have access to a wealth of health and wellbeing articles, videos and advice on a range of health issues.