Unplug to reconnect: how to do a digital detox and reduce screen time at home

Raechel Conover profile image April 25, 2024 | 5 min read

Key Points

  • Health impacts: Excessive screen time harms sleep, vision, and mental well-being, especially in young people.
  • Digital detox benefits: Disconnecting helps to keep you present, reduces FOMO, and improves sleep and social interactions.
  • Practical steps: Identify habits, set clear limits, create screen-free zones, and engage in alternative activities.

Do you often find yourself aimlessly scrolling through your phone? I do, too. Scrolling social media is a common time suck, and while it might seem harmless, it has more consequences than you might think. According to Pew Research, as of January 2024, 97 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and nine out of 10 own a smartphone. While advances in technology and mobile devices are beneficial, you can have too much of a good thing.

Study after study proves that too much screen time adversely affects our health. By suppressing the production of melatonin—a natural process in the body—blue light screens negatively affect our sleep cycle, especially in children, according to The Sleep Foundation. Too much screen time can also lead to eye problems and negatively affect mental health. In adolescents and teens, indulging in too much screen time is correlated with higher obesity rates and can expose them to violence, sexual content, substance abuse, bullying, and other things that are harmful to their mental health. Plus, mobile devices make it all too easy to feel like you’re missing out.

To help you and your family find more balance with screen time, here’s a handy guide with tips and tricks to initiate digital detoxification, reduce screen time use and disconnect from social media—at least for a little bit each day.

The benefits of a digital detox

To counter the effect of screens on your physical and mental health, you can take a digital detoxification break daily. This means voluntarily turning off devices and designating a solid block of time to do activities that don’t involve a screen—even the television. A digital detox doesn’t need to be a huge deal—you don’t need to turn off the screens for days at a time, but just having a few hours a day or limiting your time on certain apps will help.

Putting away the devices allows you to:

  • Be more present with the people you are with
  • Decrease your feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out)
  • Improve sleep time and quality

Get a home phone

Before cutting screen time, consider bringing back a home phone. Many of us use the excuse that our phones are a necessary evil, that they are the only way to stay connected—especially in emergencies. But they don’t have to be. An easy solution is a home phone. Not only will it keep you connected if someone really needs to contact you, but a home phone has many benefits for families that want to teach proper phone etiquette or improve family organization.

Identify your current screen time

To start your tech detox, figure how much time you spend on devices daily. With smartphones and tablets, it’s easy to identify—just find your screen time report on the device. But I encourage you to dig a little deeper. Try keeping a log of when and what type of screen you and your family use daily. Maybe you sit down to dinner, and everyone has a phone or tablet out. Track it. Do this for a few days to identify the times each day when screen time use is high.

Set clear screen time limits

Once you know your screen time weaknesses—when and where you spend the most digital time, you can dig in. In your tech detox plan, set up limits and boundaries for everyone in your family. As a parent, you can set time limits for your kids each day on most devices. If, for example, you want them to feel the benefits of social media detox, then you can limit how much time each day they’re allowed on social media apps like Snapchat and Facebook. For younger kids, you can select what apps you will allow and how long. You can also set the times of day they’re allowed (and not allowed) on devices. If you don’t want them to be on screens before bedtime, you can schedule their devices for downtime one hour before bedtime. You can also set limits on your own devices for downtime, work time and personal time.

Create screen-free spaces at home

Another tech detox tactic is to identify screen-free zones in your home. Our kitchen has an open floor plan with a huge island. It’s truly the center of our home, so naturally, this is where everyone sits to eat, do homework, socialize and, yes, scroll their phone or use their device. A few months ago, we made our kitchen island screen-free. Assuming it would mean we just sat at the island less, we have been pleasantly surprised that that’s not the case. Instead, a lot more conversation and screen-free meals happen around the island. There have even been card games there lately.

Another good place to make screen-free is in bedrooms. Getting screens out of bedrooms is essential to a good night of sleep for you and your family. Not allowing the devices in the bedroom means that even if you can’t sleep, you aren’t rolling over and scrolling aimlessly, making the problem worse. Try setting up a charging station somewhere in your house where everyone plugs in at night. It makes it easier to identify what devices are missing and to quickly remedy the situation.

Develop screen free activities

As a parent of three children, ages eight to 13, it has become increasingly impossible to combat screens. We decided to create a list of screen-free activities we could do to replace some screen time. Our list includes meals together, reading before bed, cards and board games, walks and bike rides, but it can truly be anything your family or you as an individual enjoy. A premade list makes it easy to pick something quick instead of reaching for a device.

If you are ready to disconnect from social media and dive into digital detoxification, I recommend a home phone. Ooma has several options. You just buy the Ooma base station and connect it to your internet. The basic plan with Ooma is free—all you pay are the applicable monthly taxes and fees—and you’ll benefit from crystal-clear calling and the Enhanced 911 safety feature. Or, you can get a Family Phone Bundle that includes the phone and Ooma Telo base station on the Premier service plan with a monthly subscription cost of $9.99 a month, plus applicable taxes and fees, that comes with advanced features, including Advanced Call Blocking. Either way, you’ll have peace of mind that you are still reachable while on your digital detox.