October 23, 2019
Smartphones, computers, televisions, and tablets have tangled themselves into almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives. In fact, the average American spends over ten hours in front of a screen every day. The reality is, too much screen time can have a negative impact on your mind, body, and relationships. Here’s how:
Maintaining mental wellness goes beyond addressing broad mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It also includes more specific things like focus, organization, and productivity—all of which are affected by the overuse of screens, especially in children and teens. Though the research is still new, findings show that adolescents who spend more than seven hours a day on screens are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
Even people who spend only four hours each day in front of a screen may experience lower psychological well-being than those who use screens for only an hour. Researchers also suspect screen time has a negative effect on our ability to focus and pay attention. ADHD is ten times more common today than it was twenty years ago, and experts say it’s likely that environmental factors like excessive online media exposure have contributed to this sharp increase.
Because the mind and body are so connected, reducing screen time can also improve your physical well-being. Studies have shown that the blue light from a screen reduces the brain’s natural production of melatonin, making it more difficult to sleep and relax, ultimately resulting in a higher risk of disease, a lower metabolism, and a shorter life expectancy. Compounding these risks is the increased amount of sedentary time, or time spent sitting for long stretches. Current guidelines recommend a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly for adults, but many people find themselves on the couch instead, ready to watch a new series or the nightly news. This raises concerns about an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and even death.
Too much screen time doesn’t just affect our own mind or body, it can also affect the people around us. In a recent study , researchers found that excessive phone use negatively impacts our relationship satisfaction, which in turn leads to lower levels of life satisfaction. In children, the over-prevalence of screen time can impact the ways in which they would normally develop; exposure to screens more frequently than music or a parent’s voice actually changes their neural pathways. This can cause a loss of empathy, and a significant drop in meeting developmental milestones.
As hard as it may be, distancing yourself from the screens in your life is true self-care. Not only does it keep you mentally and physically healthy, but it can allow you to spend more quality time with your loved ones and help children develop and flourish. Set timers and limits for screen use when possible, turn your phone off when you can, and pick up a hobby that doesn’t require a screen.