The Perks of Powering Down

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

We all get 24 hours in a day. But how many of them do we spend on screens? If you’re like the rest of us, you spend a lot of time on the internet—and that time spent online can zap us physically, emotionally, and mentally. But what’s the first step in breaking our screen time habit? And how can we intervene with our loved ones who don’t see their digital habits as problematic?

Audience Questions

In this session, Dr. Lisa W. Coyne talks about digital burnout, shares signs of screen fatigue, explains the impact of too much screen time, and answers audience questions about our technology habits.

  • Why am I so hooked on my phone?
  • Can you talk about the addictive habits of social media and why “autoscroll” is something so habit-forming?
  • Can you explain tech withdrawal and what it might feel like for people?
  • What are some warning signs we should look out for if we feel like we’re falling into an addictive pattern with our phones? What about with screens in general?
  • What can we do to keep ourselves busy if face-to-face socializing isn’t something feasible? For example, there are people who use coloring apps because school supplies had been harder to come by. Any suggestions?
  • What do we do when we’re using our phones and technology to take care of ourselves—for example, using meditation and workout apps to keep healthy—but they’re contributing to screen time. How can we justify some screen usage but not other screen usage?
  • Would you recommend silencing most notifications to remove triggers so that you’re not compelled to look or answer?
  • People often claim that self-control is the way to manage social media usage—but like seen in the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” there are algorithms and marketing tactics used to override our ability to have this control over our usage. Is the self-control argument still relevant if technology is actively trying to overcome our own mental fortitude?
  • How do you balance screen time with working and personal life? After a more than 8 hours a day on a screen, you want to decompress, but for whatever reason, more often than not our decompression tends to involve a screen. Any advice?
  • How do you approach the conversation to say you’re actively trying to spend less time on your phone? How can you keep your social circles from not taking it personally if you’re not getting back to them nearly immediately?
  • Can we talk about kids and gaming? It qualifies as socializing screen time, but do you have advice on how we, as parents, can set a threshold with our kids?
  • What are your suggestions for talking with a partner about screen usage?
  • Do you have any advice for ways to advocate for ourselves on the job when doing work that doesn’t necessarily require using a screen—how can we get away from our screens if we don’t need them? Is there any evidence that screen time at work is bad for us?
  • Do you have any advice for us to be more accepting of the fact that some screen use is inevitable or that not all screen use is bad?
  • How do we own our behaviors and be comfortable with being uncomfortable without necessarily justifying or rationalizing our habits?
  • Is there any research done on an appropriate amount of time that teens can spend playing games?
  • Are blue-light glasses effective or is it simply hype?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


You may find this additional information helpful:

About Dr. Coyne

Lisa W. Coyne, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School, and is a senior clinical consultant at the Child and Adolescent OCD Institute (OCDI Jr.) at McLean Hospital.

Dr. Coyne has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters on anxiety, OCD, and parenting. She is the author of “The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years,” a book for parents of young children.

Recent books by Dr. Coyne:

Learn more about Dr. Coyne.

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