Don’t sit so close to the television. My parents told me this, and I know they weren’t alone. In previous decades, adults were concerned about children ruining their eyes with too much up-close screen time.
Today, the reason for concern has increased many times over, as we’ve gradually allowed smartphones to replace any number of things we used to love. Not only are we looking at screens more often, we’re holding them closer to our faces.
What can we do about it? For starters, give your eyes a break. Here are five ways you can use your phone that don’t require staring at the screen.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Mobile phones began as precisely that, mobile phones. They allowed us to stay in touch with other people while we were out of the house. That was it, and that was enough.
Sure, now they let us text, take pictures, drive without asking for directions, read books, follow the news, play games, and watch movies — but there’s still value in having a mobile device that you can use specifically for talking.
You can hold the phone up to the side of your ear, yell while on speakerphone, carry around a Bluetooth headset, speak into the same earphones you use for music, or connect your phone to your car.
Either way, talking remains reason enough to own a mobile phone, and with the ability to call places around town without even knowing the number (which Android has been able to do out-of-the-box since KitKat), you aren’t wasting your money by using a smartphone primarily for talking. That’s not to mention how well certain apps can identify numbers you don’t recognize and manage contacts whose information is spread all over different social networks.
2) Listen to Music, Podcasts, and More
A decade ago, MP3 players were selling like gangbusters. Before that, people bought CD players and portable radios. The ability to listen to some kind of audio wherever we went was easily worth plopping down the money for.
Our smartphones allow us to do all of this. Listen to music while you’re at the gym. Stream podcasts while doing household chores. Listen to audiobooks as you walk the dogs. Follow the news reports from your local radio stations (and even those that aren’t so nearby). You only need the screen on long enough to get things started, and then you continue to listen for hours without putting any strain on your eyes.
3) Know Where You’re Going
The nice thing about navigation apps is that they don’t just show you where to go, they tell you. This isn’t just the case with driving either. You can tell your GPS app you’re traveling by foot, drop the phone in your pocket, and listen as it tells you the distance to your destination. Just like when you’re in a vehicle, it will shout out where to turn and when.
I personally find looking at a map easier than listening to directions, but it’s a matter of personal preference. And it’s nice to have the option when your eyes are turning red.
Need help picking one out? Here’s our look at several of the best navigation apps available for Android.
4) Log Where You’ve Been
There’s a way you can recall everywhere you’ve ever been. Okay, not ever, but at least since you’ve got your phone. Depending on how high you turn on your location settings, Google tracks your history. You can view where you’ve traveled by browsing your timeline in Google Maps online or in the Android app.
To view similar information on your phone, install Google My Tracks. This app records your speed, distance, and elevation while it traces a path of your trip. Walk with Map My Walk can do the same thing without requiring you to give your data to Google. It’s from MapMyFitness, though, so you will still have to create an account to get started.
Download: Google Maps for Android (Free)
Download: My Tracks for Android [No Longer Available]
Download: Walk with Map My Walk for Android (Free with in-app purchases)
5) Track Your Activity
Tech companies are tripping over themselves to put fitness trackers on store shelves. There are bands from Fitbit, Jawbone, Sony, and even Microsoft. All of them rely on smartphone companion apps for much of their functionality.
You can turn to any of these products to track your activity, or you can use just your smartphone instead.
You can track your steps with apps like Noom Walk, Runtastic Pedometer, and Sony’s Walkmate. Google Fit tries to differentiate between walking, running, and biking.
Others, like the Runtastic Heart Rate monitor, can keep up with how quickly your heart beats. With so much interest in this space, expect more apps to continue popping up.
Download: Noom Walk Pedometer for Android (Free)
Download: Runtastic Pedometer for Android [No Longer Available]
Download: Sony Walkmate for Android [No Longer Available]
Download: Google Fit for Android (Free)
How Much Do You Stare at Screens?
This is an important question to ask ourselves. Just because you have the option to do everything digitally doesn’t mean we should. Our eyes aren’t the only parts of our bodies affected by this lifestyle change. Everything from our posture to our sleep to our mental health is altered by our increasing tech obsession.
Since you’ve read this far, you’re probably already interested in making a change. Here are seven other ways you can reduce screen time.
How do you use your phone without slouching your neck and staring down? If you know of more ways to avoid absorbing pixels all day, let us know!
Image Credit: woman in profile via Shutterstock