I recently discovered a feature on my iPhone that tells me how much “screen time” I use per day. I know I am a little behind the curve here, but in case you didn’t know this existed either, it even shows the amount of time a person spends on specific apps. I have to be totally transparent with you all, it was very eye-opening, and to be honest, a bit horrifying. There were some days I spent almost 2 hours collectively on social media. I knew this “screen time” didn’t even include the time I spent on my computer or watching TV. It made me think about what else I could be doing with my time. Luckily, there is a feature on the iPhone where you can set time limits for yourself. For example, I now have a one hour time limit for my social media apps every day. So why am I sharing this, you ask?
Every day during the winter months, I speak to potential staff members about what it is like to work at Camp Echo Lake. When I start to tell them about our No Cell Phone Policy for campers and staff I find myself saying the same thing every time, “This may sound a little scary, and feels a little weird at first, but it ends up being the best feeling in the world.” And truly, I mean that. Even though this will be my 14th summer at camp, I too have an “adjustment period” where it is hard for me to put my cell phone down at first, and when I do, I feel like I am missing something important. However, I know when I ultimately get over that hump, I love the feeling of being a bit more disconnected from my screens.
Putting my cell phone away for the majority of the day at camp gives me a feeling of relief and joy. At camp, I am more in tune with what is going on directly around me. I am more active. I experience inspirational moments in real life instead of reading about them online. I take mental images of special moments instead of pictures on my phone. I have interesting face to face conversations with staff and campers. I feel a greater sense of accomplishment because I have so much more time when I am not being distracted by notifications or text messages. Limiting screen time has also been proven to be better for our mental health and overall happiness, and I can agree that overall, I feel happier.
So, how can the act of limiting our screen time translate into our everyday lives? I am not intending to totally bash all use of electronics, as they definitely have their benefits, and sometimes even help us connect with our family members or camp friends that live far away. However, we can all be more aware of how much time we are spending on our electronics everyday. If we all set a goal to start limiting our screen time now, then it may not feel so weird at camp. Here are some suggestions on how you can begin to limit your screen time today:
- Use the time limiting iPhone feature, like me.
- Be your own time limiter! Before you get on your phone, iPad, video game, etc., set a time limit for yourself prior to beginning and stick to it!
- When you are with a group of friends, have everyone put their phones somewhere out of reach. If everyone is in it together you will all be more likely to stay off your phone and have quality time with each other, the whole time. You can even make a game of it. The first person to get on their phone has to pay for lunch, etc.
- Completely turn off your phone, don’t just silence it. If there is a time during the day when you are home and do not have to be reached, turn off your cell phone even for an hour so phone calls or notifications will not distract you.
- Motivate yourself by using your screen time as a reward. Make a list of things you need to accomplish like homework, cleaning the dishes, reading a chapter of a book, etc. before you let yourself pick up your phone or play a video game. Your screen time will then feel well deserved.
We are so lucky that we have a place to go for the entire summer that acts as a screen time limiter for all of us, so we do not have to always rely on the above tips or an iPhone feature. Until then, let’s practice limiting our screen time together and ultimately we will feel the benefits of being more disconnected from our screens in our everyday lives, not just at camp!