Too Much Screen Time? Here’s How To Mix It Up
The common debate among many parents... Here, we offer you some useful tips by experts!
For many, working from home has also meant that we spend almost all of our time in the workday in front of our computers. Some have found themselves working over 50 hours a week since working from home; that translates to over 50 hours before a screen a week. This does not even include screen time off-work. Physical meetings are now replaced by video conferences and watercooler conversations between colleagues are now held online on WhatsApp or intracompany messaging platforms. If limiting screen time was a challenge for parents before, the previous shift to full home-based learning for students in Singapore has made this task near impossible.
In a time where physical distancing is key to safeguarding ourselves and those around us, we still have the desire to remain socially and emotionally connected to our loved ones. The best way to overcome the physical barrier has been through text messaging as well as video and phone calls. Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls have given us an avenue to see and talk to our friends and extended family members, albeit through a screen.
When we’re not working or chatting with friends, we watch TV, Netflix, YouTube, and more. We even follow online workouts through our computers and mobile phones. All of these activities involve a digital screen of some kind. The amount of time we spend on our phones has skyrocketed – a user in the US even found that his screen time has increased by 185%.
Too Much Screen Time: Symptoms
Looking into a computer or phone screen for extended periods of time can cause blurred vision, strained or dry eyes, and headaches. When you work at a computer, your eyes are constantly moving around the different parts of the screen, focusing and refocusing constantly. Images keep moving and flickering and your eyes have to adjust accordingly. All these put immense strain on the eye muscles. Eye issues that result from computer use can be grouped into a condition called “computer vision syndrome”, which affects 50-90% of people who use a computer.
More time spent on digital devices means less time available for exercise and physical activity. Unhealthy habits like mindless snacking also often accompany increased screen time, increasing your chances of obesity and its related conditions.
The blue light emitted from a screen suppresses melatonin production and keeps you more awake for longer at night. This delays the time you fall asleep and reduces your overall sleep quality. Engaging in online content right before bedtime also stimulates your brain, making you too alert to fall asleep.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much?
For children, the limit is clearly set – the World Health Organisation recommends that children below 5 should be given no more than 1 hour of screen time, and those below 2 should not have any screen time at all. Young ones above 5 can be allowed a little more than 1 hour, but less is best.
Excessive screen time can have drastic effects on children’s brains. Artificial lights and flickering images could overstimulate certain parts of their brain and result in attention deficit, lowered sleep quality, lower energy level and more. Physically, research has shown that screen time could lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity among teenagers.
For adults, however, the line is blurred. There are no concrete recommendations for how much screen time an adult should be allowed a day. However, look out for these signs that you might need to put down your phone or shut down your computer:
- Anxiety when your device doesn’t work. We all know the dreaded feeling when the Internet is lagging or when you don’t feel your phone in your pocket. Many of us probably experience this feeling at least once a day. This signals an addiction to your device and could be detrimental to your mental health in the long run.
- Trouble meeting deadlines. Spending 8 hours at work does not mean you’re working for the full 8 hours. You could be distracted by your phone, or browsing online shopping sites, and before you know it, it’s the end of the day and you haven’t finished your work for the day. Low productivity and a general lack of motivation to complete tasks are clear signs of internet addiction.
- Feeling of guilt associated with device use. You might be aware that you’re supposed to be doing something else instead of being on your device, and might even feel guilty about it. This is a cue for you to put down your device and complete your task.
Tips For Mixing it Up
Parents: get involved
It isn’t easy to limit screen time for your children when they can’t go out to play. Educational content on TV or YouTube can be beneficial for cognitive development and can help bridge knowledge gaps. Watch these content with your children so they can ask questions. If you’re too busy to accompany them, check in with them regularly and ask them to explain what they’ve been watching to you. They’ll have to process the content and articulate it to you, helping you determine if the video is truly beneficial.
Reduce non-essential screen time
It’s even harder to limit screen time as adults. One place to start would be during mealtimes. Focus on the food in front of you instead of watching TV or scrolling on your phone. If you’re staying home with family or a partner, this is a good time to reconnect after spending the day working in your respective areas of the house. If you’re alone, take this time as an opportunity to meditate and centre yourself. Besides, distracted eating has been linked to increased obesity rates. When you’re distracted, you tend to eat more, quicker. You might not notice the brain’s signals that you’re full. So, put down that phone and turn off the Netflix!
Replace recreational screen time with creative alternatives
Relying on your digital devices for entertainment after work hours might be tempting, but there are equally fun alternatives you can explore. Spend your free time baking, creating art, or picking up a new skill like sewing or knitting. Play some music or a podcast for background noise, and give your eyes a break from the screen.
Too Much Screen Time Symptoms: Medical Care is Available 24/7 with Speedoc
The best treatment for tired eyes and other issues from too much screen time is to reduce your overall screen time permanently. However, if the discomfort is severe and you would like to seek medical help, Speedoc’s 24/7 on-demand doctors are here for you.
Learn more about Speedoc and how it can help you get professional healthcare whenever you need it, wherever you are. Visit their website at: https://speedoc.com/sg/
This article was first published in Speedoc and republished on theAsianparent with permission.