Computers, cell phones, tablets, tv’s….they all make up the media that Americans find themselves using for hours on end – all day, every day. Yet, what is all this screen time doing to our health? Checking news and the weather, using computers for school or work, scrolling through social media accounts and binge-watching YouTube and Netflix has become the norm for so many people.
According to Psychology Today, a large amount of screen time can actually damage the brain. Multiple studies have shown that ‘screen addicts’ show gray matter atrophy in the brain and impaired cognitive functioning. It is found that even if one doesn’t suffer from screen addiction, looking at digital screens for extended periods of time can often lead to blurred vision, eye-strain and retina damage. The blue light emitted by the screen can disrupt our circadian rhythms at night and cause sleep disorders. Medical professionals are seeing patients for headaches and pains in the neck, back, shoulders, wrists and fingers directly related to extended screen time.
The sedentary nature of screen time also brings about another set of ill effects. Sitting for hours at a time raises the risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. “Sitting is the new smoking” has become a popular phrase for a reason. Researchers from the American Cancer Society discovered that women who sat more than 6 hours a day were at a 37% increased risk of early death, compared to women who sat less than 3 hours. The hours spent in front of a television or computer will no doubt have a negative effect on our physical well-being.
Excessive screen time can also have detrimental effects on our emotional well-being. Numerous studies have shown correlations between screen time and mental health issues. Higher levels of anxiety and depression have been reported in adolescents who spend more than seven hours a day on screens as opposed to those who spend less than two hours.
So for your health, try to be mindful of the time you spend looking at electronics. Resist the urge to constantly check social media. Replace screen time with “green time.” Go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee or read a good old-fashioned book. Have a consult with your doctor if headaches, neck pain or hand pain develops and simple behavior changes doesn’t resolve the issue.