Tech

Here's why you shouldn't use your phone while watching TV

So. Many. Screens.

TV Credit: Leo Patrizi/Getty Images

By clicking one of our links you're supporting our labs and our independence, as we may earn a small share of revenue. Recommendations are separate from any business incentives.

Here's what my average Sunday night looks like: Grab a beer. Sit on the couch. Turn on Netflix. Take an hour to find a show I want to watch (the struggle). Spend the next 45 minutes half watching the TV, half scrolling through Instagram on my phone.

And while multitasking can be a good thing (like when you're reading a book and getting a pedicure at the same time), in this case, it's actually a bad thing. At least in terms of how much you're enjoying your Netflix and chill time. According to a recent survey, people who used their phone while watching a TV show experienced fewer positive emotions and enjoyed the show much less.

Because it's so common—the study found that over half of 18 to 24-year-olds use a second screen while watching TV—we asked our exec editor, TJ Donegan, to weigh in on the problem below, plus how you can unplug the next time that Stranger Things is on.

How using multiple screens affects your mood

Phone
Credit: Lolo Stock/Getty Images

Phone in one hand, remote in the other.

Researchers explain that when you're distracted (a.k.a on your phone), it reduces something known as transportation, which is when you feel completely immersed in whatever show you're watching. And the less transported you are into a show, the less emotionally attached you are and, according to the survey results, the less you enjoy it.

So why can't we put down our phones?

Social media could be to blame, Donegan (who admits that he is guilty of multi-screening) says. "For pretty much any show that my wife and I watch—except Game of Thrones—we are on our phones. It's a bad habit, and it definitely makes us less attentive viewers," he explains, adding that "the worst part is that when I actually look at what I was doing on my phone, it's way less entertaining than the show I was only half-watching."

However, he understands why it's such a hard habit to kick: "Phones, and especially social media, give you that constant drip of satisfaction to keep you scrolling."

How to stop using your phone while watching TV

TV
Credit: Franck Reporter/Getty Images

Phone-free viewing, achieved.

While there are plenty of ways to help you unplug, from putting your phone on airplane mode to silencing notifications, Donegan recommends a more drastic approach for the truly addicted: don't even bring your phone into the same room."If you really enjoy a show, make an effort to put the phone down in another room so you aren't as tempted to grab it. Your notifications will still be there when you're done." Out of sight, out of mind.