People are more connected digitally than ever before, thanks in no small part to the global pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and the shift to remote work versus in-person office spaces.
However, the lines between personal and professional life have blurred and screen time is up significantly as more and more people spend time online for not just work and virtual learning, but also for entertainment.
Several studies have found that adults spend an average of 11 hours per day staring at a screen. While some of that time is unavoidable for office workers, the hours of extra recreational screen time is not good for your overall health.
Even more alarming is what the Kaiser Family Foundation found: On average, kids ages 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day. This adds up to a whopping 114 full days out of the year.
Screen time, while it does keep us connected during this time of physical disconnect, is not all fun and games. In fact, there are several negative health effects of technology that you probably did not realize.
Let’s take a look at the psychological and physical health effects of technology, as well as how to create healthy screen time limits to avoid overuse.
From video chat features that help you stay connected with loved ones to online tools that make you more effective and efficient at your job, there is no denying that technology rules the world. There are many technologies we cannot do without and that make our lives much easier.
However, when we talk about screen time limits and the negative health effects of technology, we are referring to recreational screen time. Video games, social media, binge-watching TV shows, and the thousands of gaming apps on your phone are all forms of recreational screen time. Too much of this type of technology can significantly impact you mentally and psychologically.
Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and saw an influencer or friend whose life is so “put together” that it makes you second-guess your own? Whether you envy that person’s physical appearance and material items or that person’s ability to seemingly “juggle it all,” this can trigger negative emotions.
Research suggests that those who limit their time on social media are often happier than those who do not. People who were more prone to social comparison and had more negative social interactions online experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety.
Our recommendation? Take frequent breaks from social media and let yourself have a “social media detox” every now and then. This allows you to take a step back and appreciate what you do have rather than focus on or compare yourself to what you perceive others to have.
Playing video games and apps on your phone or watching TV is often a solo activity that isolates you from others. While we live in a time where you need to socially distance yourself from others, that does not mean you should isolate yourself entirely.
It is important to find ways to reduce these isolating activities and instead focus on other recreational activities that are safe and inclusive. While setting screen time limits is recommended, it is important to also help reduce the feeling of isolation when you are using technology and try to make it a virtual group activity.
Here are a few suggestions for making the most of your screen time:
There are ways to use technology to help you stay fit and active, but in most cases, technology is used in a very sedentary position in a chair, on a couch, or laying in bed. From the lack of physical activity to the strain on your eyes, there are several long-term negative health effects of technology.
Spending too much time online rather than going outdoors to enjoy nature, take walks, or exercise can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. As such, it is important to take breaks from sedentary technologies to help promote a more active lifestyle.
Here are a few suggestions to help you prioritize physical activity throughout your day:
For fun ideas on how to stay active, check out our blog 10 Fun Ways to Stay Active With Your Family at Home.
Handheld tablets, computers, and smartphones can hold your attention for long periods and are one of the leading causes of eye strain. Symptoms include blurred vision and dry eyes but eye strain can lead to pain in other areas of your body as well like your head, neck, or shoulders.
It is critical to take regular breaks away from the screen to mitigate eye strain, and see an optometrist for a checkup if you do experience these symptoms. The American Optometric Association recommends using the 20-20-20 rule when using a screen for longer periods of time. After every 20 minutes of using technology, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away.
How do you limit your children’s screen time? First things first, say “no” to yourself. It’s time to lead by example. Setting screen time limits is not just something parents do for their kids, it’s something you need to do for yourself as an adult as well.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule on what screen time limits you need to set for yourself, there are several things you should do regularly to reduce the amount of time you do spend on electronic devices:
Screen time is not recommended for children up to 24 months of age, and kids ages 2 to 5 should spend no more than an hour per day using electronic devices.
For older children, it is up to the parent’s discretion how much screen time they should have, but always keep in mind their physical activity goals. The Centers for Disease Control recommends kids receive at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and setting screen time limits can help achieve this goal.
Do you need some creative ideas for entertaining your kids without using technology? Download our free Cheat Sheet!