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Screen Time Rules for Adults: Protecting Your Attention in an Age of Digital Distraction

Nourishing Habits™ Digital Wellness Coaching and Lifestyle is excited to feature Corey Pemberton as a guest writer with Freedom. Corey is a freelance writer and content marketer who loves writing about marketing, business, and productivity. Freedom is an app and website blocker used by over 750,000 people to reclaim focus and productivity.



Screen Time Rules for Adults: Protecting Your Attention in an Age of Distraction

You've probably heard of screen time rules for children and teenagers. These help parents prevent access to adult websites, encourage kids to socialize and spend time outside, and handle whatever responsibilities they might have.

But that's usually where the conversation ends.

For adults, the thought of applying screen time rules for ourselves is often overlooked. Shouldn’t we have enough discipline to handle this on our own?

This couldn't be further from the truth. In this age of unprecedented screen access and interactions with tech designed to be addictive, it's never been more important to use every tool we can to ensure our screen time is healthy and intentional.

Understanding the Scope of the Problem

Kids aged eight to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of screens for entertainment every day.

This isn't something we just grow out of either. A Common Sense Media survey of 1,800 parents of children aged eight to 18 found that they spend a staggering nine hours and 22 minutes of screen time every day – eight of which were for personal use! Total screen time would have been even higher if the survey hadn't targeted a wide range of occupations, many of which didn't require screen use on the job.

Most unsettling: about 80 percent of the parents surveyed believed that they were good role models for how to use digital technology. This shows a serious lack of awareness to the scope of the problem.

We don't just have more access to screens than ever before. We're also facing an entirely new type of problem. For the first time in history we have the capability and data required to program tech that essentially hacks our biology to grab attention and keep us coming back. This is great for tech companies looking to increase engagement and ad revenue… but dangerous for users who would rather spend their precious time elsewhere.

Screen Time and Your Health

We've all been there. What starts out as an innocent plan to check your Instagram feed ends with dozens of open browser tabs. Hours blur, and after a trip down the black hole of recommended YouTube videos, you wonder where the afternoon went.

This technology can be great for connecting us, entertaining us, and teaching us new things. But only if you're using it in a healthy way.

The threats for productivity are obvious. What's often overlooked are the very real health risks.

Mental Health Risks

Tech offers an easy escape from the challenges of real life, feel-good dopamine spikes instead of being forced to confront negative emotions or conflicts. It recreates life's experiences vicariously, sometimes deceiving our brains with a false sense of accomplishment – like you'd feel “leveling up” in a video game.

Dopamine tricks our brains into thinking that we're staying connected, productive, and doing something meaningful. But in reality, we're staying inside, isolating ourselves from face-to-face interactions, and threatening our self-esteem by comparing our lives with all the wonderful ones on social media.

A study in the psychological journal Emotion found a correlation between daily screen time use and feelings of unhappiness. The teenage participants who spent more than a couple hours a day interacting with tech gadgets were unhappier than those who spent more time socializing face to face.

Physical Health Risks

All that time spent in front of screens makes it more difficult to stay active and physically healthy. While you might see people walking down the street staring at their phones (they might even run into you!), screen time is mostly a sedentary activity. We sit and watch instead of getting outside and moving around.

You're probably familiar with the research that found excessive sitting is just as dangerous as smoking. Adding on a bunch of recreational screen time to mandatory screen time at work only compounds the problem.

We also can't forget about posture. Most screen users slouch, with rounded shoulders and hunched necks. This strains your neck, back and shoulders, as well as your eyes.


Too much screen time can also disrupt healthy sleep patterns. The dangers here are two-fold. First, quantity of sleep is at risk because we lie around playing with devices instead of going to bed when we should. Notifications ping throughout the night, sometimes waking us up.

Quality of sleep also takes a hit. Many of us are on screens shortly before bed because we use them to wind down. But the blue light from those devices mimics the effect of sunlight, disrupting your circadian rhythms and production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Notice how all these aspects are connected. Too much screen time might keep you from sleeping well, which leaves you feeling sluggish and underperforming at work. And that might make you even more stressed out and anxious about losing your job. The excess screen time kicks off a vicious cycle.

Screen Time and Relationships

How often have you seen a couple eating in a restaurant together with both heads buried in their smartphones?

This happens all the time. There's even a new term for it, “phubbing,” which is snubbing your real-life company by looking at your phone. A study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that it creates conflict and decreases a partner's levels of reported relationship satisfaction.

This sharp increase in screen time doesn't just limit the quantity of our real-life interactions. It can also disrupt the quality. Even when you manage to get your friends to do something social, their attention is lacking.

Notifications ping every minute or so, interrupting conversations. And the constant flood of new information accumulating on social media feeds convinces us that, unless we stay on top of it all, we're missing out. Fear of missing out (FOMO) makes us often neglect the people right in front of us.

Is It Making Us Happier?

Adults have embraced screen time wholeheartedly. The generation entering adulthood now grew up with them; they simply don't know any different.

Some screen time is mandatory for work, so there's no getting around that. But what about all that time we spend using screens for fun? All those hobbies and contemplation time we've replaced to scroll, tap, and click our way to constant stimulation?

You have to wonder if it's making us any happier.

Not necessarily.

Using screens might make us feel good for the moment, but those feelings don’t last. It's kind of like the empty calories you'd get eating a doughnut or drinking soda. There's a burst of sugary sweetness, followed by a letdown. You're still isolated – and those potentially productive hours are gone.

That said, there's no reason why you need to eliminate screen time completely. The key is to set healthy boundaries. When you're competing with technology engineered to be addictive, it's hard to rely on willpower alone.

Website blockers like Freedom help you set boundaries and develop a healthier relationship with tech. Recurring sessions run over and over again during time blocks you schedule, blocking time-wasting websites and allowing you to build better habits. And for those moments when you can't handle the cravings or really need to work, there's always locked mode. It makes it impossible to delete the block lists or devices until your active Freedom session ends.

How to Set Healthy Screen Time Rules

A better relationship begins by deciding how much time you want to spend in front of screens. This doesn't have to be the same for every day, but knowing your limits allows you to work backwards and put that time to best use. You might reconsider checking Facebook for the ninth time if you knew you only had thirty minutes left that day.

Once you have your screen time limits in mind, it’s time to get clear on why you’re making this commitment. As computer science professor and productivity expert Cal Newport points out, unless you give yourself good reasons to avoid the screen time, that hankering to hop on YouTube or check your social media accounts is that much harder to resist.

Newport recommends writing a personal “attention charter,” a document that guides your decisions about when you’ll allow yourself some screen time. You get to define which circumstances must met before you’ll allow the screens into your life.

The Freedom app will help you limit unplanned screen time and develop a healthier relationship with tech. However, it's just a tool. It's ultimately up to you to decide how to use it – as well as any other screen time rules you'd like to set.

Aside from using Freedom, brainstorm a few rituals you would like to enjoy screen-free. This might mean turning off devices during family dinners, walks, or chats with friends, or no screens an hour before bed. Tim Ferriss loves his screen-free Saturdays.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you can always move gradually. Start with a website blocking app like Freedom. Experiment with one screen-free ritual that's manageable. You might find that you enjoy the real-life interactions and peace of mind so much that you'll be eager to try more.

Changing Your Tech Habits for Good

So much of our screen time these days happens inadvertently. Habits we don't even realize that we've formed have become deeply ingrained, and they drive us to react without thinking.

Building a healthier relationship with this technology starts by building better habits.


First we need to identify the triggers that drive us to spend all that time with screens. Simply telling yourself that you'll stop checking Twitter so much tomorrow isn't good enough. Knowing the triggers helps you understand what's motivating the incessant Twitter-checking in the first place.

Common screen time triggers include:

  • Certain sensations and/or emotional states. Pay attention to when you're most likely to binge with your screen time. Are you often hungry, stressed, or bored?

  • Familiar environments.

  • Notifications. Texts, emails, push notifications from apps, etc.

  • Rituals. Far too many of us check the email on our phones the moment we wake up. We repeat the behavior so often that it happens automatically.

Once you pinpoint what your triggers are, it's time to create barriers between them and unwanted screen use.

If you can't help but react to those constant notifications coming in on your smartphone, turn them off. Add problematic websites to a Freedom block list so you'll gain awareness every time you try to visit them. Maybe rearrange how apps are displayed on your tablet, or put your phone in grayscale – anything to disrupt the seamless trigger and response pattern happening now.

While you work to remove bad habits at their roots, replace them with all the things you used to do! Schedule date night with your partner, go hiking with a friend, or take some time to go on a quiet bike ride just thinking. And when you do choose to use screens, do so with your full attention. You'll appreciate that time more when it's limited.

Screen time can be a fun way to connect and have fun – as long as it's in moderation. If you're wasting too much time caught in the addictive tech cycle, it's time to build a healthier relationship. Tools like Freedom will empower you to do just that!


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Corey Pemberton is a freelance writer for Freedom and content marketer who loves writing about marketing, business, and productivity. When he's not pounding away at the keyboard, he enjoys live music and getting outside to explore nature. Learn more about Corey at www.copyarc.com

Read more at: freedom.to


About Nourishing Habits™

Nourishing Habits™ are practices that support your physical and emotional well-being in the digital age. Sometimes, we need a reminder to help us sustain a healthy habit. Join our newsletter or order your adventure offline mug today! 


Parenting: Left Holding the Smartphone

Nourishing Habits™ Digital Wellness Coaching and Lifestyle is excited to feature Georgie Powell as a guest writer. Powell is the CEO of SPACE, a leading phone addiction app across Android and IOS. As a new mum, Powell was unhappy with the amount of time she was spending on social media. She became an advocate for digital wellbeing with a mission to help millions of people to find their phone life balance.



Left Holding the Smartphone

When did you first realise that perhaps you were using your phone in a way that wasn’t benefiting your life?  

My wake up call was when, as a new mum, I caught myself looking at photos of my daughter on my phone, while breastfeeding her.  I realised these precious moments were passing me by because I was drawn to my screen. The best image of her was right there, in my arms, and I was missing it.

Purpose and Presence

I’ve observed my friends as more of them enter the rollercoaster of motherhood and often think about how their phone use might be changing, whether their habits are helping them through these difficult times, or not.  On the one hand, our phones have never been more useful - we can use them to time feeds, to monitor our babies as they sleep, to stay connected during an otherwise isolating time, and of course, to take snaps of those oh so precious moments.  

But at the same time, for many of us, phones become more pervasive than ever. Boredom and fatigue pull us to our phones.  We while away the time as our babies sleep or suckle, scrolling through news feeds, refreshing Instagram, trying to respond to messages that come flooding, and googling for the 100th time exactly how long our baby’s naps should be, and whether or not they may die from the pink dot on the end of their little finger.  It has become increasingly apparent to me that this type of phone use does not help in those early days of motherhood.

My best friend, an avid Instagrammer, summed it up perfectly.  After a few days of not much sleep, she was quite fairly feeling less than her best.  Scrolling through social media, she was torturing herself with images of ‘perfect mums’ with similar aged babies, sipping lattes in sun-drenched cafes, blow-dried hair, flat bellies.   It took some effort to remind her that she was also going to cafes, where a strategically applied filter on a photo would give the same look - but by then her mood was already down.


Stay vigilant at this time of life change and stay conscious of how you are using your phone.  If you need the ultimate motivator, think of the rate at which your child is learning right now. What are you teaching them if you are looking at a screen and not at them? More on family to come, but for now, to all you new time mum’s out there…..what can you do?

  1. Find alternative ways to fill your downtime.  Get into podcasts, learn a language, or build out your book supply.
  2. Be organised with your time.  Find some specific slots each day to respond to messages and social media.  Try to align these with your baby’s schedule - maybe during their morning nap time?
  3. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.  How are you feeling? Is the internet really the right place to look for an answer to your problem?  Will visiting Facebook and seeing others having more fun really make you feel better right now?
  4. Leave your phone at home - Take your baby out, just you and them.  Go for a walk. Sit and stare into space if you have to. Be present with your child and make memories just for you and them.  
  5. Switch off early - even if there is not much distinction between night and day, there can be for your phone.  Think about switching off at a similar time each day - switch to airplane mode, and disconnect from the outside world.  Everything can wait and you need that off-time.

With baby number two soon to arrive, these reminders are going to be up on my fridge.  I don’t want to miss those moments this time round!

-Georgie Powell, Georgie Powell, CEO PHONE LIFE BALANCE


Find your phone life balance today!

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Georgie Powell, Mphil is the co-founder & CEO of Phone Life Balance Ltd, creators of SPACE.  A former graduate of Oxford and Cambridge University, she has built her career in media, telecoms and technology, first as a strategy consultant working across Europe and ASIA, and prior to launching Phone Life Balance Ltd, working for Google, where she led YouTube’s content business in Australia.

Georgie is committed to a future where we use technology consciously to make the world a better place.  Her wake-up moment about her own phone habits was when she became a new mum, glued to social media and not feeling great about it. 

Georgie is a recognised thought leader in the future of tech, ethical tech and digital wellness and was recently invited by Google to speak about ‘ethical and sustainable app engagement’ to an audience of their top 150 app developers. She has also recently been featured on the globally acclaimed digital mindfulness podcast. 

Read more at: www.space-app.com


About Nourishing Habits™

Nourishing Habits™ are practices that support your physical and emotional well-being in the digital age. Sometimes, we need a reminder to help us sustain a healthy habit. Join our newsletter or order your adventure offline mug today! 


Feng Shui for Digital Wellbeing: Rest, Romance, and Recalibrating Rituals

Nourishing Habits™ Digital Wellness Coaching and Lifestyle is excited to feature Tracy McDowell as a guest writer. McDowell is the founder of Nested Feng Shui and specializes in transforming spaces to ignite positive change and momentum in her clients' lives. 


Feng Shui for Digital Wellbeing: Rest, Romance, and Recalibrating Rituals

Have you ever wondered, why am I having trouble falling asleep? Is my phone killing my sex life? Where is the best place to store my phone at night? These are all questions that can addressed through the framework of Feng Shui.

Hi, my name is Tracy McDowell. I am a Feng Shui Consultant with Nested Feng Shui. Feng Shui a powerful practice that integrates interior design and eastern philosophies to bring balance, abundance, health, love and harmony to a home.

As the number of screens around us increases it is crucial to consider how they might be affecting our mood and wellness. Screen time is becoming more commonplace in homes; as are feelings agitation and overstimulation. You are not alone in feeling scattered, in fact you are not scattered, your habits are scattered. Lucky, there is a way to bring all your scattered energies back to a balanced focused point, Feng Shui for technological wellbeing. You have the power to change your physical environment to support your health and digital wellbeing. With a few simple Feng Shui inspired changes you can drastically improve your day to day sense of ease and inner peace.

The Importance of Creating a Space for Deep Rest

Often in our busy twenty first century lives we become detached from ourselves and the patterns that keep us healthy and happy. Do you find yourself telling everyone "sorry I'm booked" or lamenting how you wish you could relax but "you're just so busy." Busy is not always a badge of honor. "Busy" is sometimes a sign of imbalance within a lifestyle and an indication that rest is needed. Our minds and bodies require supportive spaces for both productivity and rest as we carry out our work and familial obligations.

Being in flow is not rocket science, it can be simple, it is magic, and anyone can tap into it. Consider implementing one or two of these suggestions. As you settle into the shift you might begin to notice yourself decompressing and exhaling into your space and self.

Nested Feng Shui is a practice about actively building the environment around oneself. "Settle into your heart by settling into your home." There is no one size fits all answer for Feng Shui and there is no one size fits all approach for the best place to put technology in the home. Nested Feng Shui was founded with the intention of meeting clients where they are at, AKA tailoring their space to fit and support their personal needs, wants, and goals, thus a personal consultation is always advised for the best results. That said, there are some logical rules of thumb that I end up telling every client. These rules of thumb are intuitive, approachable, and you can implement them in your home today.


The bedroom is for rest and romance.

Say it with me, "the bedroom is for rest and romance." And again, "the bedroom is for rest and romance." Rest. Romance. At Nested Feng Shui we like to be specific about the intention of a space, that way the energy knows where to go and what to do as it flows around the home. Intention is a powerful tool.

Bedrooms are safe spaces to cultivate love and intimacy; on both the personal and partner levels. Like the name implies, a bed room is a room for a bed. (If you are in a position where your bedroom is your entire space, like a studio or dorm situation, imagine your bed and sleep being separate from everything else as you read on). A bedroom is a space set aside specifically for something comfy (a bed) to support your rest and romance. A bedroom with positive Feng Shui is free of technology. In Feng Shui technology is linked to office spaces or entertaining spaces, not bedrooms. Ideally, the bedroom feels like a safe and secure island where you can drift into dreams or get your freak on uninterrupted. Picture your bedroom right now. Does it bring a sense of ease? Does your bedroom make you feel safe? Is your bedroom like an oasis amidst all the hustle and bustle of your life? You have the ability to create a space specifically designed to help you fall asleep faster, wake up more easily, and be able to completely surrender while making love.

Step 1: Remove screens that emit blue light

Step 2: Remove devices that emit EMF (electromagnetic frequencies).

Easy, remove your phone, laptop, iPad, and television from the bedroom.

Eliminating blue light will help restore your circadian rhythms and melatonin production. From natural sources, blue light is great because it boosts alertness and mood. From unnatural sources, like screen related technologies, blue light begins to trick your body out of its circadian rhythm and deplete your bodies natural melatonin production.

EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) can lead to all sorts of alarming conditions that you can google and worry about, or you can avoid that worrying step and simply start to decrease the risks of surrounding yourself with EMF while you sleep by removing your teach from our room. That includes your phone and phone charging station.

In short, keeping your phone, computer or tv of out the bedroom will improve your health and wellbeing by encouraging deeper rest and intimacy. Both sleep and sex are activities that open our hearts and minds to help us reach deep relaxation. It's is much easier to enjoy and sink into those two bliss states without distractions.

Would you put a baby to bed with an iPad to play with? No, when you put a baby to bed you do everything in your power to make that room and space remind the baby, it's is bed time. You place them in a quiet room, you close all the blinds, maybe put on a white noise machine, dim the lights, and close the door.

Consider treating yourself with the same level of care. As adults we are great at signaling to children that it is time to decompress, but not as good with ourselves. It is up to us to model healthy behavior. You would never leave a baby alone to and iPad or phone and say, "ok go to sleep." You know that the screen time is stimulating and that sleep time is about removing all stimulus to allow the the parasympathetic (rest and digest) to kick in. Phones, laptops, and televisions ideally are not part of the rest and romance equation. Keep them out of the bedroom. Protect two of the most valuable and vulnerable actions, sleep and sex, by removing technology from the bedroom.

Landing Station

A highly overlooked part of a healthy home that ingrates technology is a set space for placing and charging your electronics. My clients often benefit greatly from establishing a space upon entering the house that's their “landing pad.” By creating a location with a phone charger and space for papers, mail, and/or a bag you are signaling to yourself and others that you're leaving the outside outside and switching into home mode. By all means, use your phone and technologies in your house, but also consider how freeing it will feel to have one location where all the outside/online world can be left towards the end of the day. You will have more space for you, so you can begin to create a night time routine [link to routine blog] for you to enjoy and decompress without the huddle and bustle of outside/online life.


Begin Today

As a Feng Shui Consultant with Nested Feng Shui I am often guiding my clients to make tiny tweaks to their spaces that ripple out into positive changes for their entire life. An easy first step to experiment with the power of Feng Shui is examining where your keep your tech in your home and than seeing what happens when you remove it from your sleep space and find anew home for it that allows you to unplug when needed.

-Tracy McDowell



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Tracy McDowell is a California-based Feng Shui Consultant trained by Alina Cruz of the  International Feng Shui School. Tracy is known for her ability to transform spaces without spending a dime and helping her clients create supportive spaces to ignite positive change and momentum in their lives.  Read more at:www.nestedfengshui.com.


Nourishing Habits™

Nourishing Habits™ are practices that support your physical and emotional well-being in the digital age. Sometimes, we need a physical reminder to help us sustain a healthy habit. Try hanging your phone outside of your bedroom every night with Bagby! Bagby is a family owned, small business working to foster authentic human connection and intimacy through digital wellness. Get your bagby today!

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