Screen time can be likened to a double-edged sword, with its benefits and potential harms, both of which can affect us in different ways. Just like a hero bearing a powerful weapon in battle, we must use it with caution to obtain the desired rewards while avoiding unwanted consequences. To do this effectively, it is essential to understand what screen time is, and how too much screen time can affect the body and mind.
In this post, we will explore screen time and how much screen time is healthy so you can ensure you are getting the most out of it while minimizing potential risks.
Understanding Screen Time
Let's break down screen time so that it is easier to understand.
What is Screen Time?
Screen time is the amount of time spent using devices such as computers, televisions, tablets, and smartphones. It can occur for both work-related purposes, as well as leisure activities like gaming, streaming videos, and social media. Screen time can vary in duration; it can include a few minutes of checking emails on your smartphone or several hours of playing video games.
Technology is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life in modern societies. With the proliferation of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and other digital devices, people are spending more time than ever before on their screens.
Not to mention, the pandemic has led to a sharp rise in screen time for many people as it has allowed them to work, socialize, and pass time from home. A study done by Common Sense Media showed that from 2015 to 2019, screen time increased by 3% (4h 44 mins) for tweens and 11% (7 h 22 mins) for teens. While, from 2019 to 2021, screen use grew by 17% for both age groups, 5 h 33 mins and 8 h 39 mins for tweens and teens respectively.
Types of Screen Time
There are three types of screen time, each with its effects on the body and mind.
Active Screen Time
This type of screen time involves interactive activities, such as playing games or participating in class quizzes. Active screen time can be educational or engaging, however, it is important to remember that too much screen time can lead to distraction or repetitive stress injuries.
Passive Screen Time
This type is often referred to as “spectator” activities, such as watching videos or streaming movies. While this form of entertainment may provide some fun, it is important to remember that prolonged passive screen time may lead to mental and physical issues.
Communicative Screen Time
Chatting and texting on social media platforms and messaging apps are types of communicative screen time. This type of activity can be enjoyable, but spending too much time in this way can lead to a decrease in face-to-face communication skills and an overall lack of interaction with the real world.
The Risks of Excessive Screen Time
Now that we have a better understanding of the different types of screen time, let's explore the potential risks associated with excessive use.
Impact of Screen Time on Physical Health
Excessive screen time can lead to physical health problems such as obesity, poor posture, and vision problems. In addition, too much sitting in front of a screen can reduce the amount of physical activity, which is an important factor for overall health. This extends to kids as well since the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reported a link between too much screen time and an increased risk of obesity in children.
Furthermore, choosing not to reduce screen time before and during bedtime can cause poor sleep, as the blue light emitted by devices suppresses melatonin production and disrupts your circadian rhythm.
Impact of Excessive Screen Time on Mental Health
Too much screen time has been linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Several studies have highlighted the correlation between excessive social media use and negative impacts on mental health. This is due to how social media can create poor emotional well-being.
Moreover, too much screen time can lead to a decrease in focus and creativity as it overstimulates the brain and causes fatigue. While technology use can help us stimulate our creativity, it can also be a major distraction if used too often.
Impact of Excessive Screen Time on Social Skills
Too much screen time can have an impact on social skills, with some studies showing that overusing technology may lead to problems with communication and interpersonal relationships. This is particularly true for children and adolescents who need more face it can also lead to increased loneliness, as well as difficulty in socializing.
Finding the Right Balance
It is important to find the right balance between screen time and other activities. Here is how you can get started:
Recommended Screen Time Limits For Children
First, you must understand how much screen time is recommended. Then you must set a limit for your child's screen time use. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends:
- Until your child is 18 months old, limit screen time by confining it solely to video chatting with an adult - like a beloved family member who is away from home.
- For toddlers aged 18-24 months, it's recommended that their screen time consists of educational content and be viewed with an adult present.
- During weekdays, kids aged 2-5 should not partake in online activity that is non-educational for longer than sixty minutes. On the other hand, on weekends they can allocate up to three hours towards this type of entertainment.
- Begin instilling healthy screen time habits in your young ones from the tender age of 6. Limit screen time and create a positive, long-lasting effect on their development.
Recommended Screen Time Limits For Adults
While it is important to limit screen time for kids, adults can benefit from reducing their own screen time as well. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults limit their non-work-related screen time to two hours per day.
Practical Tips for Reducing Screen Time
Now that we understand the importance of finding the right balance, let's look at some practical tips to help you reduce your screen time.
Create a Daily Schedule
Start by creating a daily schedule that allocates specific times and activities throughout the day. This will keep you from getting too caught up on screens and will help you focus on things that matter more.
Use Screen Time Management Apps
Keeping track of the time spent in front of a screen is important for creating accountability and maintaining self-discipline. Blocking distracting apps and setting time limits can help you stay focused. Use an app such as Opal - the #1 screen time management app - to highlight how much screen time you use, monitor your usage, and set goals to reduce it week by week.
Replace Screen Time with Healthy Activities
Once you have reduced your screen time, use this extra time for healthy activities such as meditation, physical activity, reading, socializing, or working on hobbies. Not only will this improve your well-being but also give you the chance to build relationships with other people, develop new knowledge and skills, and foster healthy screen time habits.
By making conscious decisions about reducing our screen time and replacing it with healthy activities, we can ensure that our time spent in front of screens is valuable and beneficial to mental health and physical wellbeing.
Debunking Myths and Misconceptions
There are some common myths and misconceptions about screen time that need to be addressed.
Myth #1: All Screen Time is Bad
This is simply not true. Children and adults should aim to partake in positive screen time activities such as educational content and creative pursuits.
Myth #2: Screen Time is Addictive
While it can be easy to get caught up in the world of phones and screens, it is important to remember that this type of behavior can be curbed with self-discipline and good time management.
Myth #3: Screen Time Management is Only For Kids
Screen time management is important for adults just as it is crucial to managing screen time for kids. Setting limits and tracking your usage can help you stay in control and ensure that you don’t get too caught up in the world of screens.
Screen time is an important part of modern life, but it's essential to know how much screen time is too much and maintain a healthy balance. With the right guidance and tips, children and adults alike can stay in control of their screen usage and reap the benefits that come with reducing exposure.
By setting limits for ourselves and our families, engaging in positive activities instead of screens, and monitoring our own behavior through apps like Opal, we can ensure that our relationship with technology remains beneficial rather than detrimental.
Technology should be used as a tool to enhance our lives - not take away from them. So let’s make sure we find the right balance between tech use and other meaningful pursuits!