Health & Wellness

22 Mar 2021 admin

THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF INCREASED SCREEN TIME

We live in a fast-paced digital world where you can get almost every form of information on an electronic device. Therefore, it is not surprising that we tend to spend more time glued to a screen than people in previous decades did. It is almost as though you see people preoccupied with their phones, tablets, or laptops wherever you turn. It is estimated that an average adult spends up to 11 hours every day staring at a screen. While it may seem like the focus is more on regulating the screen time of children, increased screen time can also be harmful to adults.

 EFFECTS OF INCREASED SCREEN TIME

Below are some of the harmful effects of increased screen time:

Vision Problems

Staring into your screen for long periods can put a strain on your eyes and affect your vision after some time. You may develop something called “computer vision syndrome”. You may already have this if you notice your eyes are strained, dry, your vision gets blurry, and you have frequent headaches. Both adults and children can get this syndrome. Prolonged exposure to screens can also cause retinal damage and worsen pre-existing eye conditions that you may have such as myopia.

Pain in Neck and Shoulders

For most of us, our smartphones are our most accessible electronic device, and we spend a lot of time hunched over while using them. When you hunch over for so long, you put pressure on your neck and shoulders, which may lead to stiffness and pain. Staying in that position for long can also affect your posture.

Poor Sleep

The screen of most electronic devices emits something called “blue light” which may affect your sleeping pattern, making it difficult for you to get quality sleep. This blue light affects the production of the hormone “melatonin” or the “sleep hormone” in your body. This is significantly worse if you use your phone and other electronic devices just before going to bed. You may struggle with insomnia and other sleep disturbances. Aside from the effect of blue light, most people tend to spend so much time on their devices, which may reduce the amount of time they dedicate to sleep. When you don’t get quality sleep or don’t sleep for the required hours, you may have a less productive day, and children may be cranky and irritable during the day. It is advisable to keep all electronic devices away from the bedroom and avoid them at least an hour before going to bed.

Behavioural Problems

Behavioural problems due to prolonged screen time are widespread in children. Children may develop low attention spans, poor social skills, and poor emotional development. When children spend more time on their screens, they spend less time playing on their own or socializing with others. As a result, they may not develop the necessary skills and healthy behaviors expected in children. Sometimes, children are exposed to unregulated screen content which may include violent and sexual scenes. Prolonged exposure to violent scenes desensitizes children. This may make them more aggressive and increases their likelihood of wanting to attempt violence. Bullying was also associated with children who had too much screen time.

Reduced cognitive function

Cognitive function refers to mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge, processing information, and reasoning. Unfortunately, prolonged screen use had been associated with impaired cognitive function. The more time you spend on your screen, the higher the chances of your brain structure being altered. Excess screen time makes your grey matter, which is responsible for cognitive functions, shrink. This can affect your mental health leading to low concentration, problems processing information, poor memory, and generally poor judgment. For children whose brains are still developing, impaired cognitive function will be harmful in the long run. Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts have also been linked to long-term screen time exposure.

Educational problems

Children who spend too much screen time may struggle with their academics compared with their classmates who do not. This is because excessive screen time has been linked to delayed learning abilities. Children may struggle with learning languages and other academic subjects. Learning with digital devices over a long time may also not be the best for children. This is because children learn better by physically exploring their environment and participating in everyday speech communication with their peers and adults.

Weight gain and health conditions

Increased screen time may also be associated with excessive weight gain in both adults and children. This may be due to different factors related to excessive screen time. For one, watching TV doesn’t require any form of physical exercise. Spending so much screen time means you spend a large part of your day being inactive and not getting enough sleep. These may lead to weight gain that predisposes you to become obese. Many health conditions are associated with being overweight, which increased screen time makes you susceptible to. Examples include heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and sometimes, cancer.

Problems with socializing

Increased screen time has also been associated with problems in interpersonal relationships, especially with family and friends. When you use digital devices like your phone and TV, you tend to forget about other people physically present. This results in poor social skills and tending to be withdrawn from society. Your relationships may also suffer as you may find it difficult to take a break from your digital devices to give them the quality time and attention they require. Children are supposed to build social and interpersonal skills at a young age. Unfortunately, increased screen time impairs the development of these skills, making it harder for them to form and build meaningful friendships as they grow older.

Conclusion

Digital devices have become an integral part of our lives, and we may not be able to let them go completely. Instead, we can reduce their harmful effects by regulating how much time we spend on screens. We can make deliberate efforts to spend more time with family and friends than our gadgets.

Do you have problems regulating your screen time? You can speak with a professional on personalized and effective ways to curb your digital screen dependency at MD Connected by visiting www.mdconnected.ca

 

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