In a world that’s more connected than ever, social media apps have us hooked to our screens, and it’s starting to take a toll on our well-being. We all know about the physical impact of prolonged screen time, but what about our mental health?
Get ready to dive into the uncharted territory of how too much time spent on your own phone or watching television is directly related to your mental health. This article is not your typical tech talk; it’s an eye-opening journey into the hidden realm of our digital habits.
Discover the surprising association between screen time and mental health, and learn practical strategies to reclaim control over your life by limiting daily screen time.
How Does Screen Time Affect Mental Health?
There has been a lot of speculation about the negative effects of prolonged screen time on the psychological well-being of adults and children. However, research has been contradictory. According to one study, increased screen time has a detrimental effect on adolescents more than it does on younger children. For adults, increased screen time directly translates to less physical activity and the risk of diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
When you’re constantly on your mobile device, tablet, or PC, you are draining your brain’s energy and disrupting your sleep schedule, resulting in sleeplessness and lower energy. Below are some of the impacts of increased screen time on the mental health of adults and adolescents alike:
Excessive screen time can disrupt your sleep. Teens and adults spend a lot of time on their phones, especially before bedtime. The fluorescent blue lights emanating from these screens inhibit the production of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is the sleep chemical that your body produces in response to darkness. Without this chemical, your body is unable to fall asleep on time, keeping you up through later hours of the night and consequently disturbing your sleep cycle.
Needless to say, sleep deprivation leads to decreased energy, lower attention span, overeating, and exhaustion, weakens the immune system, affects your brain’s ability to retain information, and makes you irritable.
Spending too much time on your phone or laptop can result in deteriorating emotional health. It can cause mood changes and is also linked to the onset of depression in teens and adolescents. This could be due to feelings of low self-esteem and loneliness that teens feel after compulsive social media use.
It could also be due to cyberbullying, which can expose a child to strong negative emotions. Too much dependence on mobile phones and tablets also leads to anxiety when the device is not within reach or being used.
Altering Your Brain
This is an age-related effect of too much screen time that only impacts teens and older children. Since they are in the developmental phase of their life, their brains undergo critical changes. When these adolescents spend most of their day looking at a screen, it can impact the growth of their cortex.
A study called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development reveals that kids who used mobile phones and other electronic devices for more than seven hours a day had a thinner cortex than those who spent less time in front of a screen. This could have dire consequences for kids in the future.
Needlessly scrolling through social media feeds has not only reduced the average person’s attention span but also decreased the amount of work they can get done in a day. With this easy and addictive distraction right at our fingertips, it has become really easy to ditch the task at hand to scroll through Instagram.
This leads to disruption in your work and productivity. This can also cause feelings of uselessness and stress when you’re unable to complete your work on time.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much?
Before we delve into ways to limit screen time and unplug from technology temporarily, it is important to know how much screen time is too much. This way, we can find a middle ground where we continue to spend time on our mobile devices while implementing reasonable screen time limits.
There are no conclusive screen time rules suggested for adult screen usage. However, researchers have found that the average screen time for adults peaked at nineteen hours per day during the pandemic. Another study shows that the average screen time in the US is seven hours and four minutes per day.
These are concerning figures, and scientists have claimed that adults who spend more than six hours using screens are more likely to be depressed. Another study has shown that limiting social media usage to thirty to sixty minutes a day can significantly improve well-being.
What Staring At A Screen All Day Is Doing To Your Brain And Body | Insider Tech
Keeping these figures in mind, we can conclude that screen time of less than six hours, with just an hour dedicated to social media usage, can help improve mental and physical health in adults.
However, there are very clear guidelines about children’s screen time. For children under two years of age, less than one hour of screen time with adult supervision is more than enough. For children ranging from two to five years old, one hour per day is enough. For children from five to eighteen years, screen time should be tailored to their routines and habits. A good number for preteens is between two to four hours, whereas for older kids, the screen time may increase up to six hours. Parents need to closely monitor how much time their child is spending using screens and set a time limit for healthy brain development.
The Benefits of Limiting Screen Time
Limiting screen time can have several benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Decreased screen usage results in better sleep and allows you to properly rest during the night instead of staying up on your phone. The absence of blue light on phones also encourages melatonin production, resulting in better quality sleep.
When you’re away from your devices, you’re not obligated to respond to everyone and react to everything you see. This reduces stress and prevents burnout. It also reduces feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and depression.
Restricting the time you spend on devices can accelerate your performance, increase your productivity and efficiency, and allow you to focus on the task at hand instead of getting distracted. It also strengthens your willpower and the ability to stay away from distractions.
How to Limit Screen Time for Better Mental Health
Reducing your screen time isn’t about logging out of everything and throwing away your phone. Instead, it is about finding a balance between too much screen time and absolutely no screen time at all. Below are some ways to reduce your screen time and set reasonable limits for a healthier lifestyle.
Put Away Your Personal Device at Work
Many people work in places where they have to sit in front of a screen for most of the day. This means that they spend almost eight hours looking at screens during work. Putting away your personal cell phone at work limits additional screen time and allows you to take a break from work to chat with a colleague or go for a walk to be more physically active. It also prevents you from getting distracted by your phone.
Track Your Daily Screen Time
Many applications and tools now help you keep track of your screen time so you know how dependent you have been on these screens and can set limits to lower screen use.
Some applications also come with notifications to remind you to take a break if you have been using your phone for a long time. Monitor your screen time and see where you can cut down your device usage.
Take Regular Breaks
When you’re working in front of a screen for half the day, it becomes crucial to take breaks for your body and mind’s sake. It is recommended to take a five- to ten-minute break from your screen every hour. Use this break to get up from your seat, stretch, go for a walk, or chat with a colleague. Don’t use this break to stare at your mobile phone or any other screen.
Keep Screens Out of the Bedroom
Keeping screens away from your bedroom allows you to go to bed at a decent time without getting distracted. When you can not easily access your screens before bedtime, you will be more likely to sleep on time.
Additionally, the lights from these devices can interrupt your sleep and can cause sleep deprivation. If you have a habit of using your phone before bedtime, keep your phone at a distance so that it’s not easily accessible anymore. This is why bedrooms, especially a child’s bedroom, should be completely screen free.
Screens play an important role in our lives and have made everything so much easier. We can enjoy working from home due to these screens, and we can connect with friends and family across the world. But knowing where to draw the line with these electronic devices and when to take a break from screens is essential for continued physical and mental well-being. It can help you feel more energized and connected to the world around you.
Try limiting your screen time today, and see how much your life changes for the better.