Screen Time in COVID Times

Portrait of cute children typing on laptopCollege of DuPage Nursing Student Emily Kucera shared with Healthy Lombard that Pre COVID-19, many of us spent countless hours a day on our devices. In times of quarantine, however, working and learning remotely has heightening our screen times to an all-time high. Although it may be the best option for our world to adhere to, it is important to consider how all of this time spent on our appliances is affecting us? The amount of time we spend on our screens may affect sleep patterns, physical and mental health, and social skills.

Physical health 

Spending too much time looking at screens can also affect physical health, specifically, by contributing to weight gain and obesity. Much of our participation in school and work has been reduced to sitting in a chair and staring at a screen which has greatly increased our rate of physical inactivity. Since observing lectures or collaborating in meetings occurs in the comfort of our own homes, it is tempting  to snack throughout the day. Snacking also contributes to an increase in food consumption. The combination of decreased activity and increased food consumption quickly increases weight and contributes to obesity rates in the U.S.

Screen time also affects our sleep hygiene. According to an article from Rally Health entitled, The Unexpected Effects of All that Screen Time, a study performed in Norway to examine sleep, revealed that an individual works at a computer for at least four hours a day they have a 50% greater chance of not being able to fall asleep within one hour from the time they go to bed. This may significantly impact sleep, considering many individuals work on the computer for at least eight hours each day. The body need adequate sleep to recharge as well as for daily energy requirements. As a result, daily screen time is contributing to lost hours of sleep each night. Sleep is affected by screen time from blue light that is used in electronics. Blue light confuses the brain into thinking it is daytime. As a result, the mind remains awake even after we decide to go to bed and attempt to fall asleep.

Mental health

Another downside to having too much screen time is that it affects our social skills and mental health. While staying home and protecting ourselves from others, we are missing face to face conversations. This decreases the opportunity for normal social interactions and improved social skills. Having poor social skills not only leads to uncomfortable face-to-face conversations but also results in a decrease in self-confidence, negative emotions, and undesirable personality traits, such as depression and aggressive behavior.

As a result, increased screen time may contribute to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and impaired social skills. The impact of remote learning might also negatively impact our children’s health in the future. Children make friends at school, play outside at recess, and participate in gym class. Going to school provides necessary social interaction for children, which is necessary for proper development. It is therefore, essential to include activities that do not require looking at a screen into a child’s daily activities.

What can you do to reduce your screen time?

There are a number of ways to limit screen time, promote healthy eating and increase physical activity. In spite of the fact that quarantining has restricted the  normal routine of life, it is important to find time to hang out with friends, attend social events, and go outside and get some fresh air when possible. Taking time each day for a walk around the neighborhood benefits the body and mind, as well as limiting time spent working on our devices. In addition, designing activities for kids besides sitting at the computer or watching TV, such as arts and crafts, reading, puzzles, and playing outside are necessary. Moreover, spending time playing with children is beneficial . Social interaction is important for them, especially during COVID. Remember that they’re struggling to maintain some normalcy in these times too.

Another way you can decrease your screen time is to set a limit of hours for media every day, not including school and work. Keep a schedule for yourself and your children for the amount of time spent on devices, excluding school and work, each week. This will help you to determine an appropriate amount of time for leisure activities that you can spend on the screens. Mayo Clinic recommends 1 hour or less for children ages 2-12 and 2 hours or less for teens and adults. Although this recommendation is very unrealistic for most people now, it’s something to keep in mind when thinking about how much time should be spent on screens outside of school and work. If you spend more than 1-2 hours a day, outside of work and school, on your phone, computer, or tablet, start by slowly cutting down your hours until you reach the recommended time.

Establish media and screen free zones throughout your home. For example, making mealtimes a media free zone will help you and your children interact more with each other. Create a rule of no phones at the dinner table. This will help all of you step away from the screens and talk about your day together. If you live alone, you should still create a media free mealtime. It will allow you to have scheduled screen time periods for the day and help you to decompress from life’s stressors. Another solution to limiting your screen time would be to stop using all devices 2 hours before bedtime. As stated earlier, the blue light emitted from our devices confuses our brain to think that it’s the daytime. Turning off the TV and putting your phones and computers away a few hours before bed will help you to fall asleep faster and sleep better.

Although COVID-19 has altered the way we live our daily lives, it’s important to maintain healthy habits throughout these difficult times. It’s unrealistic to eliminate our screen time to the daily recommendation but cutting down time on our devices little by little will make a difference in our lives. Implementing alternatives to spending time on our screens will help to promote both our physical and mental health. Hopefully you recognize the value in the time we spend off our screens. Remember this the next time you notice yourself paying too much attention to electronics; look up from your phone and reconnect with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References 

5 tips for reducing screen time. (2019, May 24). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/5-tips-for-reducing-screen-time

Hannah Sheldon-Dean, M. (2020, May 27). Screen Time During the Coronavirus Crisis. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from                                                                                                  https://childmind.org/article/screen-time-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/

Pandika, M. (2016, September 26). The Unexpected Effects of All That Screen Time.

Retrieved November 12, 20202, from https://www.rallyhealth.com/health/unexpected-effects-screen-time

 

 

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