It’s no secret that screens are everywhere. They are a basic necessity for most of us–work, communication, safety and so forth. But the level to which we (and our KIDS!) use them has spun a bit out of control. If you’re like us, context, statistics and corresponding tips help immensely.
For context–screen time includes using phones, computers, tablets, TV, video games. Screen time went up by 1-2 hours per day in children since the pandemic, and 60-80% increase in adults. Hello.
The general guideline on daily screen time includes zero hours under 2 years old, <1 hour co-viewing with a parent or sibling for ages 2-5, <2 hours for ages 5-17, except for school-work purposes. A study showed that adolescents spend an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes on screens every day, outside of school hours. It doesn’t even feel like that math can be real, but it is!
Excessive screens can have a negative impact on:
- Sleep: Screen time decreases our endogenous production of melatonin, our natural sleep hormone which is triggered in response to darkness. This makes it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Not getting enough sleep causes fatigue, and can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to illness. Sleep is essential in order to remember what was learned during the day. Lack of sleep can decrease concentration, memory, and ability to learn.
- Mood: Emotional health is influenced by screen time. Studies link symptoms of depression to increased use in screen time. Research has also shown that it may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, as well as anxiety without their device.
- Brain: Excessive screen time causes physical changes to the brain, such as thinning of the cortex. Childhood and adolescence are critical for brain development. Studies show children who use screens in their rooms have impaired academic performance, as compared to their peers. Children were more likely to develop compulsivity, loss of behavioral control, both symptoms of OCD. Adults were reported to have varying psychological conditions.
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- Physical changes: Children and adults have a greater chance of becoming obese. Ultra-processed foods, such as chips, candy, and sweetened cereal for example, promoted in advertisements increase the desire for those foods. Mindless eating in front of electronics also promotes unhealthy habits. Other consequences include digital eye strain. And then there’s posture. Our spines and necks are certainly suffering due to screen time.
Tips to encourage less screen time :
- Use an app to track your screen time. Set limits.
- Take the TV or device out of the room.
- Turn off all screens 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
- Find activities that do not involve screens: Go outside, try a new hobby, hang out with friends.
- Exercise. You will boost endorphins good for your mood!
- Keep a journal. How does being on your device make you feel? Is it a good use of your time?
- Ask for help. If you have trouble getting off your screen, your parents, friends, a therapist, or doctor can help.
We know screens aren’t going anywhere so the importance of recognizing the potential harm of overuse and implementing tactics to break away from electronics is of the utmost importance.