Written by Christina G.
Screen time is not avoidable in today’s day and age with computers, phones, TVs and tablets within arm’s reach every time you turn around. For a lot of us, school and work are done on a computer or laptop and we keep in touch with friends and family using our phones and tablets. After a long day at work, a lot of people want to go home, sit on their couch and watch their favorite TV show. So, what are the health effects of all this screen time?
1. Weight gain: as little as two hours a day of screen time can lead to heart disease, weight gain and diabetes. While it is not the actual screen that is causing this, screen time leads to bad eating habits, sedentary lifestyle and less sleep.
2. Vision issues: screen time can lead to ‘computer vision syndrome’ which causes strained, dry eyes, headaches and blurred vision.
3. Chronic neck/back pain: those who have extended periods of time looking at a screen tend to have poor posture.
4. Poor sleep: screen time suppresses melatonin which will impair you from getting restful sleep.
5. Impaired cognitive function: extended periods of time in front of the screen can lead to less efficient information processing.
6. The most terrifying effect; increased likelihood of death: screen time increases mortality risk.
7. Addiction/reward seeking: (depending on the type of screen time) video games and social media can lead to the release of dopamine, which is part of the brain’s reward system and leaves you seeking more.
Now that we are all terrified to use screens but know we have to for work and to keep in touch with family/friends...what's next? Let's talk about ways we can reduce screen time and ultimately improve these health outcomes.
1. Track your screen time: limit it to a certain amount of time and if you have to have screen time for work try to avoid it outside of work.
2. Avoid video fatigue: virtual webinars, Zoom meetings or video calls can create fatigue. Plan less video meetings or allow for breaks where you can get up and move around.
3. Use technology to limit your screen time: set alarms that help limit your time and turn off notifications so you are not tempted to get on and check things outside of your screen time window.
4. Take breaks: this includes giving your eyes a rest. Get up, walk around, stretch and look away from the screen every 30 minutes.
5. Stand up: the less time you spend sitting the better it is for your body.
6. Work on your posture: Try not to slouch, buy a good computer chair that promotes good posture.
7. Do not eat while engaging in screen time: people tend to eat more and unhealthily while eating in front of the screen.
8. Do not allow screen time in bed (as I write this blog in be at 11:00PM): this will improve sleep quality.
I don’t know about you but I do feel better after hearing the ways to lower screen time to improve overall health. They do not seem that difficult to implement in daily life and will be pretty easy to manage. It seems that just some minor changes to your everyday life and practices can improve health outcomes and lower your overall screen time.