Screens: Helpful Technology or Harmful Virus
If you had 7 more hours in the day, how would you spend it?
You could sleep an extra hour or two, spend more time with friends and family, engage in some type of physical activity, or all three and still have time left over! What if I told you that you have the capability of adding more time to your day with just the push of a button? The “off” button, that is!
The average person in the United States spends approximately 3 hours and 50 minutes on their cell phone and 3 hours and 20 minutes watching television. This doesn’t even include time spent on the computer while working, gaming systems, or tablets.
Throughout any given day, the average person will pick up their phone fifty-eight times, thirty of which are during usual business hours, and we typically spend roughly 1 minute and 15 seconds on it before setting it back down, according to a recent study. This may not sound like a lot of time; however, 50% of screen time sessions start within 3 minutes of the previous one, meaning the single pick up can begin a compulsive chain reaction.
But why does this matter?
According to another study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the deep focus you had on a task prior to a distraction. Additionally, even brief mental blocks can correlate you to lose as much as 40% of your productive time. Not only do screens affect your productivity levels while you are at work, but they also have significant effects on your physical and mental health as well.
Substantial amounts of screen time, which is considered a sedentary activity, can be a risk factor for obesity. Heart health may also be impacted and can lead to a higher risk of diabetes and increased blood pressure and cholesterol. Too much screen time can also lead to poor posture, leading to chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain. Not to mention the strain that screens place on the eyes after hours of exposure. Your sleep may also be affected by screen time in the sense that the light emitted from electronic devices interferes with the brain’s sleep cycle, indicating to it that it is still daytime when in actuality it is the opposite.
Lastly, screens have been shown to negatively affect our mental health. Studies have shown that higher screen time and depression could be connected, in addition to an increase in suicidal behaviors. Screens have also been shown to negatively impact our social interactions with others, as they have lowered our ability to read emotions, in general. And these have only gotten worse within the last year due to reduced physical contact with others and increased technological “advances”.
Now that we know the dire importance of decreasing our screen time, let’s talk about some ways to actually make it happen!
Track your screen time. It is nearly impossible to improve upon something that you don’t measure. Most smartphones do have a feature that automatically tracks your screen time based on the day or the week as a whole. For the most accurate account, check this on the daily, as your time may differ from the beginning of the week to the middle to the end, in addition to weekdays versus the weekend.
Once you have an idea of how much time you spend on your phone and which apps you are more likely to frequent, delete the apps that no longer serve you a purpose. I would also encourage you to remove social media apps from your phone. Not to say that you need to delete all of your accounts forever, but you will be less likely to find yourself down the rabbit hole of scrolling if you need to get out your physical computer or other, less handy device, to do so.
If you’re not quite ready to commit to deleting some apps from your smartphone, try setting your screen to grayscale. There’s a reason all of your apps are brightly colored: it’s to draw you in! Changing this setting could subconsciously change your behaviors by signaling to your brain that your phone is less visually appealing.
Turning off notifications on your phone is another way to decrease the number of times we pick up our phone throughout the day. Society has indicated to us recently that we need to respond to everything immediately as it comes to us; however, this is not the case. That text or email or social media notification can wait. Instead, allocate a specific time to check all of your notifications at once, and when time is up, set the phone down until the next allocation of time.
During times that you are more likely to turn on a screen, make the conscious effort to participate in another activity. This could include something more individual, like reading a book or magazine; doing a puzzle; engaging in physical activity, such as a walk or stretching; or journaling. Or you could plan a fun activity with family or friends, such as playing a game; reading together; having a dance party with music; or exercising outside.
All this being said, screens and technology have paved the way for significant enhancements in our lives; however, that does not mean that they have to consume us. I encourage you to work to decrease your screen time, even if by just a few minutes a day. If you have some ideas or tips that you have used or heard of to do this, let us know in the comments section down below or on our social media on Facebook and Instagram!