By Dr. Suhyun An
Oct 3rd, 2022
If you’re like me, time often feels like a scarce resource. The twenty-four hours we have each day fill up quickly with our work and family duties and to-do lists, especially as we head into the end of the year.
Well, I have a tip for freeing up your time: a tip that is sure to bring more calm, creativity, and connection to your life. A tip to help you listen to the voice of God. This incredibly simple tip doesn’t require you to learn a new skill or buy any tools or gadgets. In fact, the only thing it requires you to do is stop doing something that’s eating up way too much of your precious time.
My tip is this: Get off social media. All of it. Facebook. TikTok. Twitter. Instagram. All of it.
And while you are at it, stop watching the news (which really should be called tragedy porn).
Chances are, you’ve heard this tip before — but still spend a lot of time on your phone, tablet, or television. The fact is, this tip is simple yet challenging to implement in the era of addictive TikTok and YouTube videos. Yet because I’ve pretty much managed to turn my home into a mostly screen-free zone in recent years, I know it can be done.
If you are using an online service that is free. It is not free. YOU are the product. Those companies gather your information so they can sell the product to you. Do you know why “smart TVs” have gotten so cheap? It is because the TV company makes more money selling your data and habits than selling the TV. Yes, you are the sucker.
I had a big motivation for getting off screens: my precious two-year-old daughter, the gift from God. When I was doing my master’s program, the school taught us to ask the parents about kid’s TV/ screen time because increased TV/screen time was linked to a higher chance of obesity. The negative impact of social media doesn’t just end with obesity. It has detrimental consequences on their emotional and mental well-being as well. I have a friend who has a thriving pediatric practice, and he confessed to me, “my practice is inundated with children with anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders, and this was not what I am trained in. I feel ill-equipped to take care of these kids. When I was growing up, we couldn’t wait to start driving at 16, but none of those kids are driving and have no interest in driving. They spend all their time on their cell phones in their rooms.”
As a mother, I have a huge responsibility on my shoulders. I need to support my daughter’s development as a unique individual while also instilling the important values that will anchor and guide her throughout her life. And while I raise her, I don’t want her to be influenced by ideas and values beyond those I believe will be helpful for her. I’ve heard many horror stories from parents about how social media ruined their children’s lives. One friend, a pediatrician in Texas, tells me his office is inundated with kids suffering from social anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues due to spending so much of their lives online. Many feel isolated because they spend the bulk of their free time alone in their rooms or in bed, scrolling through social media feeds. Today, more kids want to become influencers than they do doctors, attorneys, or the president of the United States.
I don’t want screens to hobble my daughter’s real-world social life, tamp down her creativity, or blunt her future career ambitions. This is why I’ve vowed to keep my daughter away from the screen until she’s nine years old — the age when a child’s ideas, philosophies, and sense of self have been largely formed, according to research.
Today, when I get home from work, I enter a screen-free zone — for both my child and myself. I don’t want to be that parent scrolling on their phone in front of their child, so I switch to an old phone that doesn’t let me do anything beyond make and answer calls.
Going screen-free, or even screen-light — as a modern parent is challenging. As a working mom, I can certainly understand the temptation, after a long day at the office, to put a child in front of the TV or hand them a tablet. After all, it’s easy to place ourselves in front of the TV or sit with our phones, watching a mindless show or scrolling through Instagram!
But thanks to my daughter, I’m learning the importance of screen-free time. I’m convinced now that all of us, parents or not, should give ourselves more breaks from our screens. Instead of checking our emails as soon as we wake up, we should be hugging our kids, spouses, and pets. We should be diverting our time to focus on what truly matters to us — our creative ideas and projects, our loved ones, and ourselves.
So let’s all look up from our screens. Whatever goal it is you may have — whether it’s exercising more, learning a new language, or being a better parent — divert half the time you currently spend online to spend pursuing that goal. My guess is you’ll reach it a lot faster than you thought possible.