Mental Health
January 4, 2023

How Screen Time Affects Mental Health

We know that too much screen time is bad for us — but did you know excessive screen time affects mental health?
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As we scroll, tap, and swipe our way through the digital world, it's easy to lose track of the amount of time we spend staring at screens. Whether it's a laptop, smartphone, or TV, screens have become a constant presence in our lives, and it's not uncommon for people to spend hours each day plugged in. But as technology continues to advance and screen time becomes increasingly prevalent, it's important to consider the impact this constant exposure may have on our mental health.

From social media to streaming services, screens offer endless sources of entertainment and connection, but they can also be a source of stress, anxiety, depression and distraction.

So how can we find a healthy balance in our relationship with screens? 

In this blog post, we'll delve into the ways in which screen time can affect mental health and offer tips for managing screen time in a healthy way. Whether you're looking to cut down on your screen time or simply want to make sure you're using screens in a way that supports your well-being, this post has you covered.

Mental Health Is Affected By Elevated Screen Time 

There is growing evidence that excessive screen time can have negative effects on mental health. Some of the ways in which screen time can affect mental health include:

Increased Risk Of Anxiety And Depression

Research done in the Clinical Psychology Review found that excessive screen time is associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression, particularly among adolescents. This may be due to the constant stream of information and stimulation that screens provide, which can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and disconnected.

Sleep Disturbances

The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Naturally, this reduction in the quantity and quality of your sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Problems With Attention And Focus

Constant notifications and alerts can be distracting and make it difficult to focus on tasks. This can lead to problems with productivity and overall cognitive function. Also, if you struggle with ADHD, excessive screen time can further worsen your impulse control by stimulating the dopamine centers in your brain.

Social Isolation

While technology can provide a way to connect with others, excessive screen time can also lead to social isolation. This is particularly true for younger people, who may rely on technology for social interaction instead of building meaningful in-person connections.

It's important to note that the effects of screen time on mental health can vary from person to person. Some people may be able to use screens without experiencing negative consequences, while others may be more sensitive to the effects. Ultimately, it's about finding a balance that works for you and using screens in a way that supports your overall well-being.

How Does Screen Time Affect Children’s Mental Health?

As screens become an increasingly integral part of our daily lives, it's important to consider the impact they may have on our children's mental and physical well-being. 

Here are just a few ways in which excessive screen time can affect children’s mental health:

Cognitive Development

Problem-solving, critical thinking, and language development make up a child's development skills. From birth to three years old, children are learning and developing at an extremely rapid pace, and screens can impede this process.

According to Dr. Cross, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine, excessive screen time may result in tunnel vision which will hinder their ability to observe and learn from the environment around them. Therefore, it will be difficult for kids to develop these crucial cognitive skills at the recommended rate.

Additionally, excessive screen time can lead to sleep disturbances, which can further impact a child's cognitive development. It's important for parents and caregivers to monitor and manage screen time for children to ensure it is not having a negative impact on their cognitive development.

Risk of Screen Addiction

Excessive screen time can increase the risk of screen addiction, particularly in children. Screen addiction is characterized by an inability to control screen use and a tendency to prioritize screens over other activities and responsibilities. It can lead to problems with impulse control, difficulty regulating emotions, and an inability to cope with boredom or other negative emotions. 

Children who spend a lot of time in front of screens may be more prone to developing an addiction to screens, as they may come to rely on screens for entertainment, social interaction, and emotional support. Parents and caregivers must promote positive screen time for their children to ensure that it is not leading to an unhealthy reliance on screens.

The American American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time at all for children until 18 to 24 months and at most one hour for kids ages 2 to 5 years. 

Physical Activity

When glued to their screens, it’s easy for kids to develop a sedentary lifestyle that opens them up to a host of health issues. To promote healthy physical activity levels, parents and caregivers must encourage physical sports and hobbies such as baseball, volleyball, swimming, tennis, golf or even regular outdoor play. This can help mitigate the negative effects of screen time on physical activity levels and stave off childhood obesity and its companions, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even heart disease.

Social And Emotional Development

Besides developing cognitive skills and having fun, the goal of every child is to understand how to form and maintain relationships, as well as regulate emotions and cope with stress. Children who spend a lot of time in front of screens may miss out on important social and emotional experiences and may be more likely to experience social isolation. 

Cyberbullying

While as parents, we may aim to shield and protect our children from the evils of the cyber world, sometimes it is our kids who are exposed to some of these dangers. Cyberbullying is one such example, with it mostly affects kids between 14 to 15 years of age, predominantly on social media platforms such as Facebook( 87% of cases in the US). Cyberbullying is any form of online bullying or harassment, which can cause psychological distress to victims including anxiety, depression, and even suicide.

To protect our children from cyberbullying and other online dangers, as parents we must actively monitor our children’s screen time and educate them on the importance of responsible online behavior.

Compulsive Internet Use

There are many ways to prevent compulsive internet usage and ensure the healthy use of technology among your kids. For example, you can try setting limits on screen time, establishing screen-free zones in the home, and encouraging alternative activities that promote physical, social, and emotional well-being. By finding a balance in our relationship with screens, we can help our kids thrive and stay healthy in the digital age.

Screen Time And Mental Health In Covid-19 Times

Increased Screen Time For Remote Work And Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a widespread shift towards remote work and learning, as individuals and organizations have implemented measures to reduce the spread of the virus. This shift has resulted in increased screen time for many people, as they use screens to communicate with colleagues, attend meetings, and access course materials.

While remote work and learning can offer flexibility and convenience, it can also come with challenges, such as the need to adapt to new technologies and the potential for increased screen fatigue. It's important for individuals to be mindful of their screen time and take breaks to rest their eyes and avoid fatigue. It may also be helpful to establish a dedicated workspace and set boundaries around work and leisure time to help maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Increased Screen Time For Social Connections: 

From messaging apps to video calls, we've relied on screens to stay in touch with friends and family and feel a sense of community.

But while screens can be a social lifeline, it's important to remember that they can never fully replace in-person interactions and connections. It's crucial to find a balance in our use of screens for socializing and to make time for face-to-face interactions whenever possible. We must also be mindful of the impact that social media and other online platforms can have on our mental health and to take breaks and engage in other activities as well. By finding that healthy balance, we can ensure that screens enhance, rather than detract from, our relationships and well-being.

Increased Screen Time For News And Information

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the consumption of news and information online, as people seek to stay informed to make data-driven decisions about their health and safety.

Despite our best efforts, we must still be vigilant about how accurate these sources are by fact-checking before sharing or acting on the information. The spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories online can be harmful and can contribute to anxiety and stress. 

How Can Opal Help?

Opal is the #1 screen time management app that can help you track and limit your phone usage in a way that is tailored to your needs and goals. By using Opal, you can experience a range of benefits that can help you manage your screen time more effectively.

One of the key benefits of using Opal is that it can help you reduce distractions and increase productivity. According to our internal survey, 94% of Opal members report being less distracted thanks to the app, and 93% are more productive as a result. This can be especially beneficial for people who struggle with phone addiction or who find it hard to focus on work or other tasks because of their phone usage.

Similarly, as we have seen how excessive screen time negatively affects mental health, Opal offers a range of intuitive and user-friendly features to block addictive apps and notifications, especially during your scheduled Focus Sessions. As such, you enjoy feeling less overwhelmed, anxious and even depressed. In fact, our previously mentioned internal survey reports 90% of Opal members experience improved mental health thanks to the app. 

Overall, Opal is a powerful tool for managing your screen time, reducing distractions, improving productivity, and boosting your mental health. Try Opal for FREE today and start taking control of your mental wellbeing! 

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