Screen time is a constant in the lives of many and because of the amount of time we devote to scrolling, there is a new focus on how much screen time adolescents use each day. Research is showing a sharp increase in everything from sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and even suicide rates that parallels a still-growing amount of time that is spent on devices each day. As the use of laptops and cell phones has become a constant and necessary part of life it’s impossible to cut out screen time altogether, but how much is too much?
How Screen Time Can Be Unhealthy
It is hard to even remember what people did before the current technology, in fact, teenagers today have never known a life without a constant connection to the internet. From phones to tablets to computers and televisions, the world is now literally at your fingertips, which is an amazing advancement. You can access information, family, friends, and entertainment from almost anywhere you are in the world. The future looks bright for adolescents as we continue to gain access to new tools, as long as we have awareness around where these conveniences have the potential for harm.
That instant access means that people can accomplish much from the comfort of their couch, everything from homework, to getting dinner, even turning off the lights. As a result we are getting less physical activity, often while eating less healthy. This doesn’t simply mean gaining a few pounds, it is leading to diseases like diabetes as a rate right enough to be considered a public health crisis. Researchers believe screen time is one culprit, as we’re able to eat out day or night without actually leaving the house. Adolescents are less likely to learn healthy eating habits or maintain balanced diets, instead relying on the ease of apps that bring even their favorite junk food to their door.
Screen time is responsible for more than just a shift in the weight of the nation. Too much can also significantly cut down on the amount of face to face interaction with other human beings, the mental health impact being an increased sense of loneliness and isolation, depression, anxiety, and suicide. This too has become a public health crisis, particularly due to sharp increases in suicide rates as people use devices at an incline. Further impacting mental health, social media allows individuals to highlight the best parts of their daily lives has given way to unhealthy comparisons, while the anonymity allowed by interacting via computer can create opportunities for cyber-bullying and hate speech
Why We Need More Face Time Than Screen Time
For all of the wonderful things you can access on any device, nothing replaces the power of human contact. While FaceTime and Skype have given us the ability to stay connected to those we must be far away from, it is important that they don’t replace our face to face contact with those in our lives. Physical touch, sharing space, and the familiarity of meeting in person are vital to our connection to the world around us. An excess of this behind a screen can loosen that connection and leave us feeling lonely. Adolescence is when we truly begin to build meaningful relationships and experience emotional connection, but these things can’t be built via video chat or text. Teens sometimes feel isolated in live social interactions even while having hundreds of friends online if enough time isn’t spent learning how to have vulnerable authentic interactions. Shared experiences and memories are best built out in the real world.
Finding the Right Balance
Ultimately the benefits of modern technology outweigh the possible unhealthy habit potential, but it is up to each individual, teens included, to use it wisely. The screen time itself is not the problem, but it’s overuse and the resulting deprioritization of human connection and physical or mental health, which can make it dangerous. As we require screens in daily life, finding a balance between our 2D and 3D lives is essential. We all have different uses for technology and there is no formula for getting the right amount of each in. If you use a computer for work try to limit screen time on your days off to reconnect with the world around you. If you have a hectic schedule and ordering food has made life easier, prioritize a routine of outdoor exercise. If you find yourself engaging in heated online debates or you start to feel depressed while browsing the social media of others, give yourself a “time-out” from the screen and have coffee with a friend. These suggestions might not be the right fit for you but as you prioritize wellness on and offline you can find what works best to balance you or your teen’s lifestyle.
As we navigate through the rapid world of technology advances we will continue to learn how to best harmonize both sides of our reality. There is always space for the next achievement in science and alternatively, there is always room to grow in our interactions with the world around us. Balance will always be the most valuable asset as we look to the horizon.
Find the balance between reality and virtual reality. Call Embark Behavioral Health 1-855-809-0409 today. Avoid the pitfalls of too much screen time and learn to find the balance you need to stay healthy,