As technology becomes a more prominent part of our daily routine it’s no surprise that we are spending more time in front of a screen. There are definitely some positives to this screen time such as connection between others around the globe, being able to keep up with current events and the ability it’s given us to still work from home amidst COVID-19 pandemic. However, the amount of hours spent in front of a screen can quickly creep up and this has been tied to negatively affecting our mental health. On that note, let's take a look at ways screen time might be affecting us and what we can do to reduce it.
How does screen time affect our mental health?
It’s near impossible to avoid screen time completely and it isn’t all bad either. In the workplace, new technology has led to increased productivity and workflow. At work or at home, we can connect with those on the other side of the world, apps have made many parts of our lives easier and kids can play engaging and educational games. These benefits have increased our screen time significantly in the past few years, but what are the consequences that come with it?
Kids and teenagers appear to be more in the danger zone when it comes to developing mental health issues because of excess screen time. One study found that teenagers spending 7 hours behind a screen per day were twice as likely to develop depression or anxiety than those who spent 1 hour a day. In younger children a link was found between curiosity and screen time. Those who spent more time behind the screen were less curious about the world around them. Here's an article on managing anxiety with children.
It does depend what exactly you’re spending your screen time on too. In teens and adults spending too much time behind a screen on social media can eventuate in unrealistic comparison of lives and the potential of depression. Whereas spending too much time browsing a news app or following news pages on facebook might lead to increased anxiety about the world. When we spend too much time on social media it can distort what reality actually is.
How can we reduce our screentime?
Track your screen time
Most modern phones will have a screen time tracking that can be turned on. Simply seeing how much time you’re spending on your phone may shock you into change. Or you can set a goal of how much screen time you wish to spend on your phone each day and try your best to stick to that. Two hours maximum is the recommended daily amount on a phone.
Find a new activity
If you’re guilty of spending a few too many hours behind the screen, you’ll have an abundance of time when you cut down these hours. You could pick up a hobby that you’ve always wanted to try or pick up that task you keep telling yourself you don't have time for.
Turn your notifications off
Notifications are distracting and often mean we spend more time on our phone than we were planning to. Turn your notifications off and phone on silent when you can to avoid the excuse to pick your phone up.
Set usage times
If you have children or teens try set a time when they can have screen time and a time when they are off limits. Particularly for younger children, try set rules that limit the amount of time they are in front of a screen.
Pick up a book
Spending too much time on your screen before bed can lead to difficulty getting to sleep due to the light that the screens are putting off. Try picking up a book or listening to a podcast before bed instead of being in front of the screen. If you have to spend time on your screen before bed make sure to turn on the ‘night mode’ which reduces the cooler tones on your screen, supposedly helping you sleep better.
Delete apps if you have to
If the temptation to have a quick scroll through Instagram is too much, delete the app. It means your account will still stay intact and you can redownload it later. Simply deleting it for a while will stop the habit of you automatically opening it every time you hop on your phone.