How to Balance Screen Time as a Law Student

How to Balance Screen Time as a Law StudentThis week we welcome back guest writer Christen Morgan to talk about how to make sure you’re not overdoing it on screen time as a law student.

Immersed in an era of recurrent tech developments, it’s no secret that we’ve transitioned from a point where screen time was optional to a point where it’s a mandatory portion of any school curriculum and workplace agenda. I recall my time in college where my laptop spent most of its time in my dorm room mainly to be used for additional research or the final draft of a class project. I rarely saw a need to bring it to class because all of my notes were handwritten, and as much as I enjoyed the independence it gave me from being tied to the library desktop computer, its clunky and slow pace was oftentimes more of a nuisance than anything. Needless to say, too much screen time wasn’t much of an issue. Fast forward just a year later to law school, with a new laptop and smartphone in hand, I arguably spent more time on my screen than interacting with actual people. Complex course lectures pushed me into typing my class notes and my case briefing, memo writing and brief writing assignments resulted in my spending endless hours on Lexis Nexis and Westlaw. My increase in screen time had not just become more of a reality, it was now a requirement bordering on the wall of obsession.

If you’re a law student, it’s likely that you’re currently dealing with a similar issue. You’ve seen the warnings of how detrimental too much screen time can be, and you’ve seen the countless articles and social media posts that warn parents of these detrimental effects on their child’s development. Thankfully parents facing this issue have an overflow of resources providing guided steps they can apply to improve their child’s screen time usage and thankfully children are in a controlled setting in which screen time still remains an option. But what do you do when you’re not a child but an adult law student required to use prolonged screen time for productivity? The only answer I can think of is to find a way to strike a balance. It’s not realistic to ask any law student to cut screen time completely or even to cut it down to a set number of hours a day. However, it’s definitely possible to make some shifts that can allow you to fulfill your requirements while maintaining more responsible screen usage.

Before jumping into how you can strike a balance, it may be worth it to understand why striking this balance is so important.

Why is too much Screen Time Bad for you?

Too much screen time can be very bad for your physical and psychological well-being. Therefore, balancing your screen time with non-technological means of achieving productivity, can be an essential part of maintaining physical and psychological wellness. The negative effects of screen time don’t happen overnight, but over time you could develop a bevy of health issues such as Text Neck, Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Addiction.

Text Neck is the damage caused to the neck area due to all the stress our spine endures from staring down at electronic devices, and it has become a fairly common epidemic.

Computer Vision Syndrome is another negative health issue that can be brought on by too much screen time. This syndrome is caused by the strain we put on our eyes when overusing electronic devices.

Digital Addiction is also a very real effect of too much screen time. Although this type of addiction may be viewed as trivial in comparison to other traditional addictive behaviors, it should absolutely be given equal levels of concern considering the result of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts that can result from it.

Let’s Strike A Balance!
1. Start with the Areas you can Control

Considering that most of your screen time in law school is a mandatory offshoot of preparation, how about cutting down screen time usage for the areas you can control such as: social media, calendaring and task lists?

Although everyone’s screen usage breakdown varies, it’s likely that you spend an unconscionable amount of time on social media. I think the easiest way to break away from this is to complete a social media cleanse to break away from the addiction. After non-usage for an extended time you will likely lose your urge for dependency.

As for calendaring and task lists how about utilizing more analog tools to stay on track. There is nothing like the satisfaction of marking something as complete on paper and, although utilizing analog tools may take a bit longer, it may be worth it considering the chunk of time you will now commit to not staring at a screen.

2. Restructure the Areas that are Difficult to Control

Now on to the tough stuff! Balancing your screen time for areas you have very little control over will be tough, however, this is a necessary step that may actually be better for your memory in the long run. I recommend restructuring how you currently prepare for your classes to move away from your screen and towards old school paper.

Handwrite Notes

If you are able to keep up with your professor, I definitely recommend handwriting your notes in class. The most beneficial part of this process will be the time you take to review your notes after class to fill in the inevitable gaps from handwriting. This step will do your brain, eyes, and neck some good.

Print your Cases

I also recommend printing your cases for research and case brief review. This step isn’t necessarily the best step for the environment (sorry mother nature), but it will be great for striking a balance. If you have a major research project, instead of spending hours poring over Westlaw/Lexis, I recommend printing out your findings and reviewing this away from a screen. The same goes for case brief reviews that you may read online to supplement your daily class readings. Spend a few minutes online to print these out, but do most of your prep away from the screen.

Any other ideas for balancing screen time in law school? Let me know some of your favorite ways to maintain productivity away from your screen.


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About Christen Morgan

Christen Morgan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tampa where she received her B.S. in Criminology. She earned her J.D. from Emory Law School where she competed and served as an executive board member for the Emory Law Moot Court Society. Christen also served as a student representative for LexisNexis and also as a mentor for several 1L students offering them advice and a variety of resources to help them through their law school journey.

Christen previously practiced as a Foreclosure Attorney for a Real Estate law firm but has since then transitioned into a Real Estate Specialist role at a wireless infrastructure company.

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