Balancing the pros and cons of social media screen time

We recently received an email from Chris of Howell, Michigan with a great question:

Please give your take on social media screen time. Mostly TikTok. We know most of the pundits say it’s harmful. However, it is also educational, entertaining, and fulfilling, especially, when alone.

–  Chris from Howell, MI

Social media is an excellent tool, and it can also be a harmful distraction. It has both its pros and its cons, and everyone uses it for different reasons. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or all of the above, you can make sure that social media has a healthy presence in your life and not allow it to completely take over your free time. Let’s go over some pros and cons of social media and how you can limit your screen time.

What are some social media pros?

The biggest pro of social media is that it allows you to keep in touch with people.  Some of us have friends and family who live all over the world and we don’t get to see them often, so looking at their posts on social media is a great way for us to still be in the know of where they’re at in their lives.

Another great perk is that social media might introduce you to people you may not have met otherwise. There are tons of groups out there on social media for people who have specific interests, whether it be reading, archery, knitting, or something else. Social media allows you to find people who have similar interests, and it can often help you feel less alone if you don’t have that kind of community in your everyday life.


There are also the educational and entertainment aspects of social media. A lot of people end up discovering new musicians, styles of clothing they want to try out, or even facts about the world that they didn’t know before. Or, to make it simpler, sometimes people just need a good laugh and can find endless hilarious videos to cheer them up.

TikTok, in particular, has become hugely popular for this reason despite its clear invasive concerns from communist China.  It looks at the videos you like and then finds similar videos to pop up on your “For You” page.  It also uses tons of hashtags, which are what help people’s videos get more views and likes.  Their goal is to get you addicted to TikTok just like a narcotic drug.



What are some social media cons?


Although it has plenty of pros, social media, of course, has its cons as well. One that is specifically discussed the most is how distracting it can be. I’m sure we’ve all experienced “doom-scrolling,” where you open one social media app and then suddenly look at the clock and notice that hours have passed.

Trolls & keyboard warriors

Social media can also be a negative space. The terms “troll” and “keyboard warrior” have certainly grown in popularity over the years for those who like to spew negativity and leave nasty comments on every post they see. A lot of arguing can take place as well, especially when it comes to more political posts.


Depression & anxiety

Social media has also led to more people feeling depressed and anxious. It’s easy to become socially isolated when you have your face on your phone so often. Plus, it is common to want to compare yourself to people on social media as well, especially when it comes to topics like body image.

Brain changes in teens

A recent study in JAMA Pediatrics with 169 sixth- and seventh-grade students found that checking social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat too often can affect how the brain develops in early adolescence. The study showed that students who checked social media habitually had differences in brain development related to emotions, motivation, and cognitive control. At age 12, those who checked social media habitually had lower brain sensitivity when it comes to the ability to anticipate or predict social situations, interactions, or outcomes compared to those who didn’t check as often.

However, among habitual users, some brain regions showed increases over time, while nonhabitual users showed decreases. This suggests that checking social media frequently in early adolescence may change how the brain responds to social rewards and punishments, which could impact a person’s mental well-being.

Issue of privacy

And one of my biggest concerns with social media, of course, is the issue of privacy. These big companies like TikTok & Facebook love to snoop on your data, and the more we share about our private lives, the more information will be out there about you for people to snoop on.

As for TikTok. You have to ask yourself – am I okay with the government of communist China having access to my child’s intimate personal details, knowing what gets their attention, and always tracking their whereabouts? That’s not all TikTok is harvesting of your family’s security and privacy. They are stealthily scraping bits and pieces of your life to serve up videos it’s learned you’ll watch and to turn you into a juicy ad target. That part is the obvious trade-off we expect in a data mining financial model that is standard for every major big tech media company.

The concerning part unique to TikTok is that it is owned by a parent company ByteDance whose home is in mainland China. And in that country, the government laws require ByteDance to give access to its data for any reason whatsoever and without any sort of court order or warrant. TikTok maintains that it is operated independently of ByteDance but data moving from its U.S. servers to mainland China has already been identified.


So when it comes to privacy and social media, I recommend you install antivirus software that will protect you from accidentally clicking malicious links on social media that would install malware, as well as remove any existing malware from your devices.

See my expert review of the best antivirus protection for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.


How can I be better with the way I use social media?

1. Limit screen time

If you feel like you’re spending way too much time on social media, one thing that you can do to significantly improve your relationship with it is to limit your screen time. If you don’t think you have the self-control to do this, iPhones and Androids both have ways of helping you limit the amount of time you spend on each app.

How to limit your screen time on an iPhone:

  • Open your Settings app
  • Click Screen Time
  • Click App Limits
  • Click Add Limit
  • You can choose from a variety of app categories to limit your usage. If you want to limit your time on social media apps, click Social and select the apps you want to limit
  • Click Next 
  • Set the time limit you want for the apps you’ve selected
  • Click Add 

You will now only be allowed to use those apps for the time limit you chose every day.

How to limit your screen time on an Android:

  • Open your Settings app
  • Tap Digital Wellbeing & parental controls
  • Tap the chart
  • Next to the app you want to limit, tap Set timer 
  • Choose how much time you can spend on that app and tap Set


2. Move or delete apps

Another thing you can do if you want a break from social media is to simply move your social media apps into a folder or away from your main home screen, which can help decrease your time on them. You can also delete the app from your phone, which will not totally get rid of the account you have. You can always re-download it when you feel like you’re ready to look at it again. Just remember that when you re-download the app, you will have to log in again, so make sure you know your login information.


How to delete an app from an iPhone
  • Hold down the app you want to delete
  • Tap Remove App and then tap Delete App to confirm
How to move an app on an iPhone
How to remove the app from your iPhone Home Screen:
  • Hold down the app you want to move
  • Tap Remove App
  • Tap Remove from Home Screen
How to add the app back to your iPhone Home Screen:
  • Tap the Search icon at the bottom center of your screen
  • Type in the name of the app in the Search bar
  • Hold down the app and select Add to Home Screen
How to move an app to a folder:
  • Hold down the app you want to move
  • Tap Edit Home Screen 
  • Hold down the app and slide it around. You can move it to a folder that is already made, or hold the app over another app that you want to group into a new folder



How to delete an app from an Android
  • Tap and hold on to an app located in the app drawer or on the home screen
  • Drag it to the Uninstall section that appears on the screen
  • Tap on OK when the pop-up window appears
How to move an app on an Android
  • Touch and hold an app or shortcut
  • Drag that app or shortcut on top of another. Lift your finger
  • To add more, drag each one on top of the group
  • To name the group, tap the group. Then, tap the suggested folder name. You can also tap one of the suggested names at the top of the keyboard or type the name you want to use


3. Turn off push notifications

Notifications are designed to get us to check apps, which increases the likelihood that we start scrolling. Turning them off can help you stay off apps.

How to turn off push notifications on an iPhone

  • Go to Settings
  • Tap Notifications
  • Scroll down to your list of apps and tap each one to adjust notifications for that app. If you don’t want notifications for an app, toggle off Allow Notifications 

How to turn off push notifications on an Android

  • Open your Settings app
  • Tap Notifications
  • Tap App settings
  • Under Most recent, find apps that recently sent you notifications. To find more apps, tap All apps in the dropdown menu
  • Tap an app and turn the app’s notifications on or off


4. Create “No Phone Zones”

Make rules based on the use you’re trying to cut down. For example, no checking your phone to look at social media in bed at night or first thing in the morning, or no phones at the dinner table.


5. Set your phone to grayscale

Phone apps are meant to be eye-catching and exciting. Changing your phone settings to grayscale during times you’d like to stay off your phone is a quick and easy trick. What this does is change the display of your phone to show only shades of gray, removing color from the screen.

On an iPhone:

  • Open the “Settings” app on your iPhone
  • Scroll down and tap on “Accessibility”
  • Tap on “Display & Text Size
  • Then tap on “Color Filters
  • Toggle on the switch next to “Color Filters” to enable it. This will allow you to apply different color filters to your iPhone’s display.
  • Tap on “Grayscale” from the list of available color filter options. This will set your iPhone’s display to grayscale, effectively removing all color
  • You can adjust the intensity of the grayscale effect by using the slider under the “Intensity” section. Dragging the slider to the left will make the display less grayscale while dragging it to the right will make it more grayscale
  • Tap on the “Back” button in the top left corner of the screen to exit the “Color Filters” menu. You should now see your iPhone’s display in grayscale
  • To turn off grayscale, simply toggle off the switch next to “Color Filters” in the “Accessibility” menu or select “None” in the “Color Filters” menu

On an Android:

  • Open the “Settings” app on your Android device
  • Scroll down and select “Accessibility”
  • Under the “Accessibility” menu, look for “Vision” or “Display & Sound” options and select it
  • Look for the “Color correction” or “Color inversion” option and select it
  • Toggle on the switch next to “Color correction” or “Color inversion” to enable it
  • You may see several color correction options. Select “Grayscale” or “Monochromacy” from the available options. This will set your Android device’s display to grayscale
  • You can adjust the intensity of the grayscale effect, if applicable, by using a slider or additional settings provided
  • Press the back button or close the “Settings” app to apply the changes
  • Your Android device’s display should now be in grayscale.
  • To turn off grayscale, simply toggle off the switch next to “Color correction” or “Color inversion” in the “Accessibility” menu or select “Off” or “Default” in the color correction options.

Note: The exact steps and options may vary depending on the Android version, device manufacturer, and device model.

Final thoughts

Social media, including TikTok, as you can see, has its pros and cons. To be better with your social media usage, you can limit screen time, be mindful of its impact on your mental well-being, and take steps to protect your privacy.

What are your thoughts on social media? Do you think it has a positive or negative presence in your life? We want to hear from you.








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