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Tips and Tricks for Cutting Back on Cell Phone Usage

Apple’s new iOS 12.0.1 update now allows users to utilize an aspect of settings called “screen time,” which allows you to see how much you’ve used your phone each day, set limits for certain apps, and even set scheduled down time away from your phone. In other words, even Apple is concerned about just how much the average person uses their iPhone.


Multiple studies have been done about college students cutting social media out of their lives for 24 hours (HerCampusAU has even done an article about it here!), but I was more interested in how much I actually did use my phone each day.


A study by Business Insider in 2017 showed that “smartphone addiction” is growing stronger and stronger each year. According to this study, Americans use their phones for an average of two hours and 40 minutes each day. Yikes. On the bright side, compared to Brazilians, who use their phone an average of nearly five hours per day, it doesn’t look so bad.

College students, millennials, and gen z-ers in general are known for spending more time on their phones. As a college student myself, I recently have found myself reaching for my phone more and more often as a method of procrastination, or just as a habit–especially during midterm seasons. So, for one day I decided to track when and where I use my phone most often, and how much it adds up to at the end of the day. Granted, I have been using my phone less now that Apple’s screen time reminds me in big bold letters how much time a week I’ve spent scrolling on Instagram, but here’s an average college student’s iPhone procrastination log:


10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

I made a decent effort to only scroll on my phone for 10 minutes today before I got out of bed. Part of this was because I woke up later than anticipated, and part of this was because I knew I was writing this article, but I was able to make it to my first class with a screen time of less than 20 minutes.


12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

I’m not the type of person to use their phone during class, so I had no problem there, but I did lose another 10 minutes waiting in the longest Einstein’s bagel line of my life (but that’s another article entirely).

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

I had an hour between class in which I told myself I would edit an essay due tomorrow. Instead, I picked up my phone a total of three times and wasted another 15 minutes on social media. Procrastination is a phone’s best friend, and my worst enemy.


2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Again, I was in class, but somehow racked up another 15 minutes just from the walking to and from class and the moments before class where I scrolled on Instagram.


7 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Before 7 p.m., I only had an hour of phone usage. After spending a significant amount of time attempting to do homework in the library, however, I had wracked up  another 40 minutes (there seems to be a pattern here).

10 p.m. – 12 p.m.

I know it’s bad to use your phone before bed, but I cannot sleep without knowing that I’m updated on everything. I also watched half an episode of The Office before falling asleep, as per usual.


By the end of the day, I had only used my phone for two hours, which is below average for Americans. Granted, I was in class for a large portion of the day and I have been acutely aware of how much I use my phone since I updated my phone, but I did realize how often I was picking up my phone without even thinking about it. Although I still have a long way to go to cut down on phone use (I’ve picked up my phone five times since beginning this article), I have come up with some tips for using your phone less during the day.


1. Stop using your phone when walking to class. Yes, sometimes it can be awkward to walk around campus, but using your phone on a short walk is a really good way to add an unnecessary five minutes on your phone.

2. Turn your phone off when you’re studying. Seriously. College students use their phones to procrastinate more than anything else, so turning your phone off when doing work will not only cut down on phone usage but will also cut down on study time.


3. Use Apple’s new downtime features.  This new downtime feature actually did help me stay off social media for a few hours each day, or at least feel guilty about my excessive usage when overriding the limits.


We all use our phones an unnecessary amount during the day, but by becoming more aware of your screen time you can become more productive, and even start sleeping better at night. So, do yourself a favor and put down that phone for a couple hours–I promise, it won’t kill you.

(Photo credit: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Rebecca Crosby

American '21

Journalism major at American University
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