Control Your Tech Use

Here are a few important steps you can take right now to improve your digital well-being and regain control. Start with your own devices and
. Our collective individual actions are creating a powerful growing movement. Together, we can change the system.

Note: Any resources mentioned are not formally affiliated with CHT nor do we collect money for recommending them. We simply think they’re doing great work. That said, their content may change without notice. Please review with care and discretion.

Set Boundaries

Turn Off Notifications & Alerts

Notifications, alerts, and badges are designed to draw your attention back to your phone. Reclaim your time by diminishing their effect.

Reduce (or Remove) Harmful Apps

Many apps and platforms  profit off of addiction, distraction, and misinformation. Consistent use of these can negatively affect our mental health.

  • Disincentivize their use → Make it harder for yourself to constantly engage with these apps by:
    • Not saving passwords so you need to retype them every time
    • Hiding them from your home screen so you’re less likely to check or notice them
    • Using them exclusively on your tablet or computer
  • Reduce their harm → Unfollow accounts that are negatively impacting your health
  • Take inventory → Once or twice a year, remove apps you no longer use - or better yet, remove all of them yearly and only add back the ones you use consistently
Eliminate Outrage & Clickbait

We vote with our attention and clicks. Don't support sites that pollute our cultural environment with vitriol via clickbait and outrage.

  • Unfollow outrage-chasing voices → Unfollow purposefully outrageous Twitter accounts and Facebook groups; start fresh and intentionally choose the voices you expose yourself to
  • Remove polarizing media outlets from your news feed → Both MSNBC & FOX News are examples of this
  • Follow positive news sources → News doesn’t always need to be upsetting. This article lists some helpful positive news sites
Create Tech-Free Spaces

We use our tech from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep at night. Designating certain areas in your home as tech-free can open up more time for other things, and allow your brain to decompress from all the stimulation throughout the day.

  • Clear your morning & evenings → Schedule tech-free blocks of time. First thing in the morning is especially helpful
  • Device-free dinners → Play a game where the first person to check their device does the dishes, or make them pay for the whole meal if you’re out to dinner
  • Charge devices outside of bedrooms → Charge your phone out of sight and out of the bedroom
  • Use a dedicated alarm clock → Wake up without getting sucked into your phone first thing in the morning
Do a Digital Detox

Disconnecting can be a powerful way to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones. Plus, taking a break from technology can benefit you in the long run by reducing its harmful effects.

  • Pick a date to be offline → Let friends and family know you’ll be offline, or better yet, invite them to join you! You can even add it to your email signature, e.g. “I am offline every Sunday” to help set expectations.
  • Take a tech-free vacation → Let people know you’ll be offline while on vacation or take a break with a digital detox retreat

Stay Balanced

Follow Voices You Disagree With

Being open to new perspectives opens our eyes to issues we may not have known otherwise. We’re not as divided as platforms would like us to believe.

  • Read unbiased news sitesAllSides gives readers a cross-partisan view of world events covered by the media, and sustains itself on a consciously created hybrid revenue model to avoid bias and clickbait incentives; services like Ground News uncover media bias and check for factuality
  • Follow people you disagree with → Challenge your current point of view by hearing from others you don’t automatically agree with. Just be sure they’re not focused on causing outrage
Support Local Journalism

Fight clickbait and support your local newspaper. Paying for a subscription allows us to remain the customer, not the product. Democracy doesn’t work without healthy journalism.

Be Mindful

Set Intentions

Before using social media, take a moment to pause, be mindful, and set the intention for what you’d like to get out of the experience. This can help get you into the right frame of mind for a healthier experience.

  • Set an intention → Before opening your apps, pause, take a moment to breathe, and remind yourself to be compassionate while browsing
  • Try habit stacking → Try meditation or mindfulness practices before you open your tech for the day.  This article can help with setting up tiny habits.
Be Compassionate

Many platforms prioritize outrage because it generates more engagement. Resist being manipulated by countering with compassion.

  • Pause and remember there’s a real person behind the screen → Don’t be so quick to publicly argue or block someone who posts something you disagree with
  • Be compassionate → Try a private message to ask why they feel that way, with genuine curiosity and a desire to understand
Cultivate Positive Feelings

If you receive 99 positive comments on a post and 1 negative comment, which do you focus on? Our survival-biased brains tend to focus on the negative, even after we turn away from our tech.

  • Take screenshots of the positive messages you receive →  Create a folder of these screenshots as a helpful reminder and let the negative ones go. Tech warps how our brains receive feedback, and we can counter by remembering the positive.
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal  → By focusing on what you’re grateful for, you can re-wire your brain to focus on the positive and notice the good things in your life
  • Use technology to express your appreciation → Share gratitude for the people in your life with a video from Tribute or Montage
  • Follow inspirational and positive accounts → When you do choose to use social media, follow accounts that inspire you and cultivate positive feelings

Additional Resources

In combination with the tips above, we’ve collected resources and apps that can help you on your journey to set better boundaries with technology.

Note: Any resources mentioned are not formally affiliated with CHT nor do we collect money for recommending them. We simply think they’re doing great work. That said, their content may change without notice. Please review with care and discretion.

⬇️ Reduce Distractions
  • Distraction-Free YouTube (Chrome) → Removes recommended videos from the sidebar of YouTube, making you less likely to get sucked into unintentional content-holes.
  • Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator (Chrome) → Removes the Facebook newsfeed and blurs the sidebars and notifications, allowing you to use some of the more utilitarian features of Facebook without getting sucked into the newsfeed.
  • uBlock Origin (Chrome, Safari, Firefox) → Reclaim your attention with every article you read by blocking content, ads and tracking.
  • InboxWhenReady (Gmail) → Focus your inbox by only showing messages when you click “Show Inbox” instead of getting distracted as new emails arrive.
  • NoMoRoBo (iOS, Android) → Blocks robocalls and decreases the time you spend dealing with spam and telemarketers.
  • Focus (iOS) → A website blocking app for Mac which includes a Pomodoro timer to stay focused.
  • Centered → Designed to keep you in flow with a clean task list, co-working spaces, coaches, and productivity-enhancing music.
  • LeechBlock (Chrome) → A simple productivity tool designed to block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day.
  • Screen Time Genie →  Try a system designed by Stanford University researchers to match you with ideal behaviors for taking control of your screen time. People who take 5 minutes to try a solution from the Genie self-report an average of 49 minutes less wasted screen time per day.
🥅  Stay Focused on Your Goals
  • Flipd → Stay focused together in live study sessions with friends and protect yourself from distraction by temporarily erasing apps from your phone.
  • Freedom (Mac & Windows) → Create custom blocklists on your desktop, tablet and phone for set periods of time.
  • Focusmate → Sign up for 1 on 1 video co-working sessions with others to help keep yourself accountable while working on your tasks.
  • Pomofocus → Use this online Pomodoro timer to work in 25 minute increments followed by a break which helps to increase productivity and keep yourself on track.
  • OneTab → Reduce browser tab clutter by grouping them together.
😴  Get More Sleep
  • Turn on NightShift (iOS) → Blue light from screens late at night tricks our body into believing it’s still daytime, which disrupts our natural ability to sleep.
  • Flux (Mac, Windows) → Reclaim quality sleep time by cutting the blue light from your screen.
🧘🏾  Practice Mindfulness
  • Calm → This leading meditation app helps you to reduce anxiety and stress through meditation and restful sounds.
  • One Sec → This app forces you to take a deep breath whenever you open social media. Friction removes instant gratification and makes distracting apps less appealing.
  • Insight Timer → This app and community features guided meditations, music and talks posted by contributing experts.
  • Ten Percent Happier → Discover guided meditations from experts and practical teachings that you can carry anywhere.
  • Headspace → Live a healthier, happier, more well-rested life by meditating a few minutes a day with Headspace and track your progress.
  • ScreenSense → Teach healthy tech use to kids, families, and communities.
  • 1 Giant Mind → Learn how to meditate through this free app, plus join events and learn how to train others how to meditate.
  • Greater Good in Action → Science-based practices for a positive, more meaningful life, curated by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
  • The Five Minute Journal → This daily, 5 minute guided gratitude journal uses proven principles of positive psychology to increase your well-being and boost productivity.
💬  Stay Connected
  • Signal → A free messaging service that is focused on privacy.
  • Marco Polo → Send video messages to friends to connect in a deeper way. It’s the next best thing to connecting in person.
  • Montage → Surprise someone with videos from all their friends sharing love, laughs, & admiration.
  • Tribute → Send a heartfelt message with Tribute's easy-to-create, one-of-a-kind group video maker.
For Apple Users

For instructions on how to change your Apple device settings, check out Apple iPhone Resources.

For Android Users

For instructions on how to change your Android device settings, check out the Android Digital Wellbeing Resource.

🙏 Thank you to Steven Michael Crane and the Screentime Genie team at Stanford for contributions and feedback on this page.