5 ways to take a screen break

7 minutes

Screens, screens! The virtual world surrounds our daily lives. Whether for work, school, entertainment, socialising, or even working out, we often find ourselves glued to our devices. Do you ever feel like you need a break?

Scouts in Serbia type on laptops on a table during JOTA-JOTI
World Scout Bureau Inc. / World Scouting

Although the virtual world can be amazing and open the door to everything imaginable, sometimes it takes a toll! Between online classes, shopping, games, meetings, events, and scrolling on TikTok, we could all use a break from cyberspace!

Studies in the United States show that teenagers spend an average of up to nine hours on screens (smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, TVs, and computers) every day. This comes with online safety and misinformation challenges, as well as health concerns like sleeplessness, mood problems, body image issues, anxiety, and more.

No matter your age, taking some time away from your phone, tablet and computer can help you reconnect with yourself and even with others around you, creating better balance and improving mental health.

So, are you ready to get away from screens for a bit? If so, start by setting this intention for yourself and try some of our ideas!

Here are 5 ways to take screen breaks and connect with yourself and your surroundings:

Scouts play at the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania heritage site outside of Algiers, Algeria
World Scout Bureau

1. Keep Moving

To blow off some steam or prevent (and relieve!) back pain from staring at screens, you can always go for a walk - even if it’s just to another room to get more water or coffee. Stretching your arms and legs, and getting your eyes off the screen, can also help to alleviate fatigue and muscle pains.

Set yourself breaks throughout the day, and make sure you put screens aside, enjoy a good lunch outside, do some stretches or exercise, or have a good chat with someone. You can even set a timer or calendar alert to remind you to step away regularly. Take those little moments to give your mind and body a break.

Scouts relax in hammocks at a national Jamboree in Denmark (Spejdernes Lejr 2022)
World Scout Bureau

2. Sensory Break

This quick exercise will only take five minutes and will provide a great sensory experience with your environment. If you're at the office or at school, or even if you're rushing from one meeting to another, you can always make a few minutes for your well-being. Here’s a simple exercise to practice mindfulness and awareness:

  • Put your phone or laptop down for a moment and take three deep breaths. Lengthen your exhales, breathing out slowly through your mouth.
  • Quietly point out the following to yourself:
    • Four things you can see
    • Three things you can hear
    • Two things you can smell
    • One thing you can touch or feel

This will take your mind off of whatever's happening online and raise your awareness of where you are physically, in the present moment. This exercise is particularly helpful when you have a busy day and feel overwhelmed. You can repeat it as many times as you want throughout the day!

Scouts lay on the ground and take a break from the World Scout Jamboree to check their phones
World Scout Bureau

3. Physical over digital

Try to transition from online to in-person activities in some areas of life. For example, next time you’re going to read, try getting a hard copy of a book (maybe even second-hand!), walk to a park, and find a nice bench to read on. Or do you need to do some shopping? Take the opportunity for a wander to a market or mall. There are so many activities that you can still do without a screen! For example, you might like journaling, drawing, playing guitar, cooking something delicious, listening music or a podcast, dancing, swimming, or taking a trip.

When you need to use a device or computer for a while, try to adjust your posture and position the screen at eye level. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but in the long term, it will help relieve tension from your eyes, neck, back, and hands. 

Scouts cook and camp together at the 24th World Scout Jamboree in Summit Bechtel Reserve, West-Virginia, USA
World Scout Bureau

4. Take a weekend offline

Nature is always a good way to have fun and interact with our beautiful world! Plan a weekend with your friends or family to escape into the wild and take a screen break together. Enjoy adventures like hiking, camping, or relaxing at the beach. Activities like kayaking, climbing, or sailing can help you learn new skills and challenge yourself both mentally and physically. It may feel challenging to be away from your messages, social media, emails, and Google, for an entire weekend, but there can be real benefits! You'll bond with the people you're with and enjoy some mental and physical relief.

Try to make this a regular practice every now and then. Pushing yourself to try new things will positively impact your daily mindset. If you're not already a Scout, consider reaching out to your local Scout Group to find out how you can join. Scouts regularly enjoy outdoors activities together!

A Scout plugs her phone in at a charging station at the World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, USA
World Scout Bureau

5. Use tools to lessen screen time

In case you didn't know: you can actually find tools on your phone that can help you get away from it! For example, Android devices come with a Digital Wellbeing app and Apple devices come with Screen Time, where you can see how many hours you spent on your phone in a week, including a breakdown of time spent on each app. You can also turn on a weekly notification to let you know where you’ve been spending your screen time.

Use this information to help you lower screen time based on your priorities. Be empowered by making this question clear for yourself: How do you want to spend your time? Maybe exercise, take a course, go to sleep earlier, paint, or spend more time with family?

You might be shocked to find you open an app like Instagram dozens of times a day and that those short scrolls can easily add up to several hours in a week. Imagine what you could do with that time! Make a SMART goal and challenge yourself to lower your screen time week-over-week. Better yet, challenge a friend to do this with you, and help keep each other accountable.

If you're still struggling to lessen your screen time, you can try one of many ‘Digital Detox’ apps available, and/or use built-in social media features like ‘Take a Break’ on Instagram and Facebook.

A group of boy Scouts in Bangladesh sit around the campfire at night next to their tents.
World Scout Bureau

Our devices and the Internet offer us a wealth of ways to get informed, entertained, and connected. For example, every year World Scouting hosts the Jamboree On The Air - Jamboree On The Internet, where Scouts from over 150 countries connect for games, global digital campfire, chats, live shows and more - a great experience that helps build greater understanding and international friendship.

With that in mind, we need to ensure we practice awareness so we can balance our lives online and in the “real world”, keeping our minds, bodies and relationships active and healthy.

Real world connection - with self, loved ones, nature, and more - is important for our happiness. Implement a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and see if you can disconnect to connect! 

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