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8 healthy habits to help you and your family cut down on social media

Whether you're the parent of a teen or wanting to cut back yourself, these habits might help cut down time spent on Instagram, Facebook and more

How to cut back on social media use© Getty
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
February 22, 2024
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What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Drink water? Gaze out the window pondering the day ahead? Whether we admit it or not, many of us immediately check our social media before doing anything else.

There's no denying that whether it's Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter (X), social media platforms make up the fabric of our daily lives. So much so, that hearing somebody doesn't have any form of social media tends to evoke surprise.

Close-up of female hand touching screen, giving likes and commenting on social media platform with smartphone© Oscar Wong
Many of us want to cut back on our social media use

But while it dominates a lot of our culture and society, many of us often feel the need to take breaks from it. Not only that, but those with children and teenagers – who spend vast amounts of time online – are especially keen for a cut back on usage.

So how do we go about doing it? The platforms can feel addictive but are also crucial tools in people's jobs, communication and beyond. However, there are a number of ways to pull back from them. Here are eight healthy habits to adopt that can help you or your child cut down on social media usage, with the help of experts to offer their insight.

HELLO! reached out to experts, and Meta Lead Trainer, social media professional and TEDx speaker, Rhea Freeman, gave her thoughts on how we can cut back.

Create 'no-phone' zones at home

"No phones at the dinner table." Sound familiar? Many of us adopt this already in the strive for basic manners while we eat. But it doesn't have to be confined only to the dinner table.

You could make your entire kitchen a 'social media-free zone', telling yourself that cooking and preparing food is the time to focus on what is in front of you, and not your Instagram account.

Even if you live on your own, play some music or listen to a podcast. Or if you're part of a family, insist that the kids keep off TikTok while you make them their dinner.

Have downtime pencilled into your diary

Life is busy. Jobs are hectic, children need picking up and ferrying from pillar to post, it's no wonder that when we get downtime, both adults and children resort to easy entertainment from a device to unwind.

If you want to kick this to the curb, however, tell yourself that between the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm, for example, social media is ignored. Once this becomes more of a habit, up the game a bit more. 'No social media-Sundays' has a nice ring to it.

Use your phone to help you cut back

This might sound counterintuitive if not a little ironic, but your phone could actually help you cut down on social media usage.

There are apps and systems you can put in place that "lock" you out of your apps such as Instagram, Facebook and more at a certain time of day or after a certain number of hours on there.  

As an example, head to your Instagram profile and select the 'three dashes', then select 'Your activity', then tap 'Time spent'. After that, click on 'Set up daily time limit' and select the number of hours you want to spend on there. After you've reached your limit, you won't be able to access it. Easy.

Many want to cut back on social media use© Chesnot

When you do use it, use it consciously for good reason

We're not here to tell you not to use social media. But knowing its drawbacks is certainly going to help you when it comes to cutting down.

So, use it for the things you know brings you joy. Whether its taking a look through your friends' dog videos, seeking out delicious recipes online, or finding outfit inspiration – the opportunities for it to enrich our lives are endless.

Meta Lead Trainer, social media expert and TEDx speaker, Rhea Freeman, spoke to HELLO! about the pros and cons of our reliance on social media. "It has the most incredible benefits in terms of finding people with similar interests, developing networks, even finding job opportunities and work placement – the upside is genuinely huge. But this doesn't mean approaching it without an awareness is a good idea."

MORE: Help keep our kids safe online - find out what we need to do 

MORE: Parenting styles: 4 different techniques explained 

Social media has huge benefits© Charday Penn
Social media has huge benefits

Don't beat yourself up

Even if you have a lot of drive to cut back, it's not always easy to go cold turkey. Like with any habit or lifestyle change, such as exercise, it's about the journey not the destination.

Children and parents alike will have days where they use it more than others. Don't punish yourself or your teens for perhaps not cutting it out immediately, but work towards a goal and realise it's a marathon not a sprint.

Rhea agreed, telling HELLO!: "If people's strategy is to steer clear [completely], there's the potential for isolation, missing opportunities, children feeling they need to use it in secret, and missing out on enriching experiences with people you can connect with on and offline."

Reward yourself or your child

It sounds basic, but reward for any behaviour is more likely to continue said behaviour. This works with young children, but there's no real reason why it wouldn't work for teenagers or adults.

Setting up other goals and rewarding yourself for those will also help. Perhaps a reading challenge, and if you complete it, buy yourself something nice. Your focus will soon shift away from the tech.

Equally, if it's your pre-teen you're trying to convince then you might have to make a few promises to them in return if they fulfil their end of the bargain by putting down the tablet a bit more.

Safety online is crucial© FG Trade

Make a list of what you don't like about social media

As mentioned above, when you know what's good for you and what isn't, you're more likely to change your mindset. List what it is that you don't find helpful about social media. It could that it affects your sleep, or distracts your teen from their homework, or simply means that they're not as present, either way it's communication that is key here.

Have open conversations

Which leads nicely to this... if you want your teen or child to cut back, explaining to them why is good place to start. Rhea told HELLO!: "It's vitally important that parents have an understanding of social media in broad terms and how their child is using it.

"This can then help parents to just open a discussion about how it can be great but is also addictive by its very nature, so thinking about its usage and consciously using it rather than going down a rabbit hole is a good way to enjoy the benefits but still enjoy 'real' life too.

"It's not easy but I really think it starts with understanding. Having a parent tell you to 'Get off that awful platform' isn't going to encourage understanding and will just cause friction between all parties."

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