Are you spending too much time in front of a screen? As the whole world becomes more digitized, many of us are accumulating more screen time per day – whether it be watching TV, scrolling through social media on our smartphones or working on a computer.
As of 2021, the average adult spends about 7 to 8 hours per day looking at a screen. Teenagers spend an average of 9 hours per day looking at a screen, while kids aged 8 -12 may spend 4 to 6 hours in front of a screen.
Is all this screen time causing us harm? For some of us, it could be. Below are just some of the negative effects of staring at a screen all day – and how you can protect you and your family’s health.
Signs of too much screen time
Spending a lot of time in front of a screen can have various negative effects. Below are some of the signs that you could be getting too much screen time.
Do you experience dry eyes, blurred vision or headaches after staring at a screen? If so, you could be experiencing eye strain (also known as Computer Vision Syndrome). This is the most common symptom of too much screen time.
People with glasses may experience this worse than those without glasses – this is a result of glare from the screen hitting the lenses. Looking at a bright screen in low lighting could also have a negative impact.
There’s much debate as to the long-term effects of eye strain. No, you won’t get square eyes – however there could be a greater risk of developing macular degeneration earlier.
Screened devices are thought to be a big cause of insomnia for many people. This is often a result of looking at screens late in the evening. Studies have shown that the bright light from screens can trick our brains into thinking that it’s still daytime – preventing us from producing the sleep hormone melatonin.
Kids are thought to be affected by this twice as much as adults. If you let your child watch TV or play on a tablet before bed and they have trouble sleeping, consider whether this is the cause.
If you spend a lot of time on your phone and experience neck pain, it could be a case of ‘text neck’. Staring down at a phone for long periods causes us to get an achy neck and is now thought to be a major cause of poor posture among teens.
Back pain meanwhile is common among people who spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer. This can be a result of leaning forward over a desk to look at a screen. Over time, this can lead to permanent lower back pain.
It’s not just the screen and device itself that’s the problem, but also the content that you’re engaging with on the screen. The likes of social media, video games and TV shows are designed to get us addicted. There are all kinds of problems that can stem from this addiction – this includes a sense of detachment from the real world and the constant need to seek out rewards in the form of likes, level ups and series completion. Many studies have linked this to greater levels of depression and anxiety.
How to make screen time less harmful
While too much screen can have many negative effects, there are many ways in which you can counter these negative effects. Below are just some of the ways to reduce the physical and psychological damage of screen time.
Reduce glare and blue light
Eye strain is a direct result of glare and blue light from bright screens. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce glare and blue light.
Wearing the right eyewear can make a difference. If you spend lots of time in front of screens and already wear glasses, it could be worth switching to computer glasses, which are able to reduce glare and blue light. If you don’t wear glasses and spend a lot of time in front of a screen, clear lens computer glasses could still be a worthy purchase. You can find such glasses at this website. A local optician may also stock them.
There may also be settings on your devices that you can select to reduce blue light at certain times of the day. Many apps come with a ‘dark mode’ setting. Apps like Flux can meanwhile be downloaded for older devices that help to reduce blue light in the evenings and at night.
Take regular breaks
Another way to combat eye strain is to take regular breaks from the screen. The 20-20-20 rule is a handy rule to follow – this involves taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes and focusing on an object 20 ft away for 20 seconds. There are apps that can remind you to do this.
When fighting tech addiction, you may want to encourage yourself to take longer breaks. Some families enforce an hour of no wi-fi or no screens so that they can spend quality time together instead of on devices.
Turn off all devices an hour before bed
If you or your kids suffer from insomnia and you tend to spend time looking at a screen before bed, it could be worth introducing a rule of no devices an hours before bed. This hour could be spent doing other activities instead such as reading, taking a bath or listening to music.
Taking devices out of your kids’ rooms could result in a lot of protesting but may be the only solution if you cannot get them to turn off devices themselves. Some devices may be able to be set on a timer so that they turn off at a certain time.
Correct your posture
Correcting your posture could be important if you want to avoid neck ache or back ache from looking at screens. When using your phone, make a conscious effort to sit down somewhere so that you can hold your phone at level with your face. If you’re sitting at a computer, consider adjusting your chair height or desk height so that the top of the monitor is level with your eyes. This will prevent you leaning your head or body forward.
Fight the addiction
It’s easy to be drawn to screens without even realizing. When it comes to social media and games on our phones, resist the urge to be sucked in by turning off notifications. You could also ban devices from certain rooms or give you/your kids time limits (many parents only allow kids to play on video games for a limited number of hours per day).