- On March 1, TikTok announced it would give anyone under 18 a 60 minute daily limit.
- Social media as a whole can have negative effects, including poor sleep and anxiety.
- There are effective ways to limit your social media use, such as turning off notifications and sleeping with your phone out of reach.
On March 1, TikTok announced it would automatically set a 60-minute daily time limit for users under 18. After the hour’s up, users must type in a passcode to continue using the app. The idea is that, instead of mindlessly scrolling for an unknown period of time, you have to actively decide to continue. Anyone under 13 needs a parent or guardian to set and use a passcode to spend another 30 minutes on the app.
Through family pairing, caregivers can set specific time limits, view screen time summaries, and mute notifications. TikTok automatically disables push notifications after 9 PM for people ages 13 to 15 and after 10 PM for people ages 16 and 17.
While the initial policy announcement is for teenagers, could everyone benefit from similar time limits? Mental health professionals and social media users alike seem to wholeheartedly say yes.
“While I agree children and adolescents are much more impressionable, and the risk is even greater for them to be excessively using social media, similar effects can still become problematic for adults,” says Dr. Zishan Khan, a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health. “People of all ages are susceptible to the lure of social media platforms, and it can affect an adult’s ability to take care of their responsibilities to their family and home, as well as negatively impact their job performance.”
Even TikTok will soon roll out customizable screen time limits for everyone. These will be broken down by time and day of the week. Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of reduced social media use and how to do it effectively.
The Benefits of Limiting Social Media Use For All Ages
A study from the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found people who stopped using social media (Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram) for a week has significant improvements in their anxiety, well-being, and depression.
As Khan explains, social media use can activate the brain’s “reward center” and, as is the case during anything pleasurable, releases dopamine. Unlike other enjoyable activities that take more time and energy, social media can provide a quick way to access this feel-good chemical.
Jamila Jones, a licensed clinical therapist
By learning to set boundaries on the time and energy we invest in scrolling through our feeds, we can potentially reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness often associated with excessive social media consumption.
Take Genevieve, who, in the midst of a depressive episode, received advice from her therapist to delete her social media. “The goal was to prevent me from spending time either doom-scrolling or fixating on others’ highlight reels and, instead, take that time to focus on myself and on getting better,” she explains. Genevieve started to do things like walk, cook, and read, while also connecting with friends over the phone or video calls “instead of just leaving ‘hearts’ on their Instagram posts.”
“By learning to set boundaries on the time and energy we invest in scrolling through our feeds, we can potentially reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness often associated with excessive social media consumption,” says Jamila Jones, a licensed clinical therapist and owner of Reclaiming Minds Therapy and Wellness. “These limits can help users maintain a healthier work-life balance and encourage mindfulness in their everyday lives, ultimately leading to improved mental resilience and overall well-being.”
Social media apps are designed to be addictive and learn how to keep users engaged. Part of this stems from the curated lives they project, leaving users to obsess over or try to recreate these projections.
Such was the case for Lexi, who last year realized she had spent every summer since she was 14 trying to create a perfect-looking life and then comparing it to others she saw online. She deleted social media from May to September 2022 and her mental health improved. “That constant, low-grade anxiety was lifted off my shoulders,” says Lexi. “I really enjoyed the privacy it gave me, too—I liked that my life was fully offline and that only the people in my trusted inner circle knew things about my day-to-day life. I didn’t feel the need to perform.”
For Matt, his daily routine of checking social media first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening became unsettling. Once that habit was gone, he felt like there was more time to do things he actually cared about. Reading replaced doomscrolling, and the impact on his mental health was overwhelmingly positive.
Another reason not to use social media right before bed? It can mess with how easily you fall asleep and how restful it is due to overstimulation and exposure to blue light from devices, explains Khan.
How To Limit Your Social Media Use
There are few things as easy to do as clicking “One more minute” when the hourglass pops up on your screen, indicating you’ve reached that app’s time limit. So, how do you effectively reduce your time on social media?
Zishan Khan, MD
People of all ages are susceptible to the lure of social media platforms, and it can affect an adult’s ability to take care of their responsibilities to their family and home, as well as negatively impact their job performance.
Well, the most straightforward is to delete your accounts or, at the very least, your apps — that’s what Genevieve and Lexi did. Matt even took it one step further and downgraded his phone to one with minimal internet access and an old-school keyboard. Impressive, but there are still plenty of options if you’re not up for that.
Jones and Khan recommend trying a mix of techniques, including:
- Turn off notifications
- Establish specific times of day to use social media
- Work and sleep with your phone out of reach
- Explore screen-free hobbies
- Engage in phone-free meals
It’s about finding what feels sustainable to you.
The Negatives of Limiting Social Media Use
Like most things, social media use is a mixed bag. Limiting your time on it—or deleting your accounts altogether—can also have some negative consequences. People often use social media to announce something instead of reaching out individually. “Social media also provides a platform for networking and making new connections, particularly important in professional advancement,” says Jones. “Those limiting their time on these platforms may inadvertently hinder their opportunities for career growth, as well as personal relationships.”
Take Genevieve, who eventually redownloaded Instagram after coming out of that depressive episode. She uses it to keep up with friends living afar and as a platform to promote her new book. While she admits to spending more time on it than she’d like, she makes an effort to use it only for these two reasons instead of aimlessly scrolling. To that end, Genevieve removed push notifications and hid the app.
Jones adds that social media is also a massive space for activism and awareness of social and political issues—another reason someone may choose to stay on it.
These points aren’t to say you shouldn’t place any limits or be aware of your social media use. Instead, they make a case for why some people would choose to balance their time on these platforms instead of avoiding them altogether.
As Lexi says, “I try not to be down on myself for having such a complicated relationship with social media—I think it’s more rare to use these apps in a healthy way than not.”
What This Means For You
Social media is so ingrained in our daily lives that limiting it at all can be a challenge, especially if you use it for work or communicating with friends. Take your time to determine which limits work for you and how to integrate them into your routine.
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