On March 1, TikTok announced it would give anyone under 18 a 60-minute daily limit. But should everyone have it? In this Verywell Mind article, Mindpath Health’s Zishan Khan, MD, explains practical ways to limit 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.”
The benefits of limiting social media use for all ages
A study from the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that people who stopped using social media (Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram) for a week had 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.
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.”
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.
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?
Khan recommends 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.
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.
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.