Managing screen time

Michael finds it helpful to take regular breaks away from the screen and to get out of the house. He stays in touch with friends via text and video call, but sets boundaries if it gets tiring. He also recommends taking a break from social media if it starts to affect your mood.

Michael talks about what he's learned about managing screen time as a student during coronavirus.

Video transcript

As the ways that we socialize this study has shifted online since the pandemic, like many of you, I've moved to more digitally focused world, and I'm spending more of my time at home sat in front of a screen. Whilst it's obviously really important to stay safe, stay connected and continue with my studies, I have found certain things particularly challenging.

First, keeping a balance. Without physically going into university or meeting people face to face, I found that I'm spending most of my days in the same space just moving from screen to screen. This was making me feel tired, isolated and demotivated and over time started to really impact on my mood. By taking regular breaks away from my screen, and getting out of the house, this helped me to feel more positive, more energized, and just helped me to stop worrying about the future.

So go for a walk, phone, a friend, listen to music, make a cup of tea, whatever it is that helps you to relax and recharge. Getting a balance is really important. I've found it especially important to establish a healthy, balanced working routine from home with clear boundaries both myself and others about when I'm online, and when I'm offline.

Second, maintaining socially distanced relationships. At times I found it challenging to maintain relationships digitally. Sometimes I felt under pressure by the expectation that because I'm at home, I should be constantly available to respond to messages. Other times, I've just felt because I'm at home, I don't really have anything new to say, and communicating with others feels like a bit of a chore.

Video calls might feel overwhelming and strange particularly if you don't have suitable space or resources, or if you're experiencing mental health difficulties. Communicating on video, without the normal social cues, can feel strange and exacerbate some of those anxieties around saying or doing the wrong thing. It's really important to get the right balance so that you can continue to stay connected digitally, but in a way and at a time that feels right for you.

Third, balancing social media. So whilst I've been unable to socialize in person, social media has become a more important way for me to stay connected, and keep in touch. But constantly seeing stories from the news and from my friends has at times felt overwhelming or worrying or even frustrating, and has prevented me from focusing on my studies or just relaxing.

Especially at the moment I'm finding that social media is really easy to feel like everyone else has adapted and has spent lockdown learning new skills and that you're the only person that's still feels anxious and uncertain about the future. It's not true, but it can quickly start to feel isolating and affect your mood.

If you feel that social media is doing you more harm than good at the moment, take a break from your account so that you can adjust to the situation at your own pace without being too emotionally influenced by others online. Or you can try just checking your feed at certain times. I stopped checking my social media before I go to bed and I find that this has really helped me to sleep better.

Remember, your university academic tutors and support services have all worked hard to put in place online systems to allow you to digitally socialize, study and receive support. These platforms might feel strange, and confusing and unfamiliar. But find the courage to engage with whatever your university has to offer digitally whilst also experimenting with what will work best for you and your wellbeing. Be clear about your needs and resources to see what adjustments can be made. By remaining mindful of your own well being whilst digitally studying and socializing, you'll be well placed to adapt and adjust to university in this new context.