In our pockets, at the supermarket till, even on our wrists. Like a 1960s vision of the future, screens are everywhere. And we can't keep our eyes off them.
There's no getting away from it. We spend a lot of time looking at screens: for some of us, more than we'd like to admit. And as remote work and socializing online are becoming the norm for many, even more of our face-to-face interactions are switching over to screens. But is all that screen time doing us any good?
With the help of Dr. Shubs, let's take a look at how screen time could affect your health, how much is too much, and some tips for cutting down.
Are screens bad for you?
No need to panic. There is no concrete evidence that screens cause adults serious direct harm. But according to Dr. Shubs, excessive screen use can be linked to health issues. Here are some common ones.
Extended periods of screen use could be a possible culprit if you suffer from headaches and tired eyes. That may be because you tend to blink less when you’re working on a computer screen.ref1 This, combined with long-term exposure to bright light, can lead to tired, sore eyes and headaches.
Current research suggests that bedtime screen use could disrupt your sleep. Exposure to bright light from screens before bed could suppress melatonin production, an important chemical for regulating the human body clock.ref2 Poor sleep can eventually impact your health and wellbeing.
Aches and pains
People tend to forget about posture when they’re staring at their devices for a long time. But after extended periods hunched over your phone or sat at the computer screen, you might start to experience back, neck, and shoulder pain.ref3
How much is too much?
There isn't a definitive answer to that question. Dr. Shubs recommends moderation, "Screen time is a hot topic for debate. Some people argue that the dangers are overstated. Either way, it's important to remember that you usually are not socializing, exercising, or sleeping when you're looking at a screen. Eventually, that can start to impact your health, productivity, and quality of life. So it's probably a good idea for most of us to cut back a bit on our screen time."
Tips to reduce your screen time
There's plenty of things you can try. Here's 5 to get you started:
- Track how much time you spend looking at screens: first things first. This is a great way to start managing your screen time smartly.
- Take regular breaks: if you work at a computer, take 5 minutes away from your screen every hour to give your eyes a break.
- Switch your screen to black and white: making your screens boring to look at is proven to help you cut down on screen time.ref4
- Keep your phone out of your bedroom: next time you're winding down before bedtime, reach for a book instead.
- Delete social media apps from your phone: social media can be a great way to connect with the world. But we’re all guilty of sitting and scrolling mindlessly. Why not try removing the temptation?
Screens are great. They're a portal to a universe of information and connectivity. But it's possible to have too much of a good thing. With excessive use, they can get in the way of good mental and physical health. With a few small changes, you can develop a healthier relationship with your screens.
Patel, S., et al. Optom. Vis. Sci, (1991), doi: 10.1097/00006324-199111000-00010.
Harvard Medical School. “Blue light has a dark side.” Accessed December 18, 2020.
Jung, SI., J Phys Ther Sci, (2016), doi: 10.1589/jpts.28.186.
Holte, AJ., The Social Science Journal, (2020), doi: 10.1080/03623319.2020.1737461.