While you were growing up, did you ever think you’d be able to start a story with ‘Well, back in my day we never had….” ? I mean, my grandparents used to tell stories like that, but I never thought I would. Yet, here I am, sitting at my laptop, starting this post out with… Back when I was growing up, we didn’t have any of these ‘screened‘ type products to play around with. I didn’t even have to raise my girls with an allotted ‘screen time‘ and they are in their 20’s. But as the world keeps turning and technology is changing… more and more of these ‘screens’ are showing up.
Not only are they showing up, but they are consuming our time and changing how we live our lives. It’s hard to go through a whole day without having to have some kind of screened product in our hands or in our face. So how do find a good, healthy balance to it?
By looking at the Pros and Cons of our screen time, we can become aware of the dangers and the benefits of being in front of these screens, but for limited amounts of time.
Let’s Get The Bad News Out of The Way
Have you ever had someone come up to you and say “OK, I have good news and I have bad news.. which do you want first?”. Well, I always choose the bad news first. I figure it will make the good news sound even better. Plus, I like to just get things done and over with it sometimes. So, let’s just start with bad news/cons of screen time and then we’ll end with the good news/pros to finish off on a positive note.
The Con’s of Too Much Screen Time
When researching the effects of screen time on us as individuals, I have to say that I quickly learned that there are not a lot of long term studies done on this topic.
The reason for the lack of long term studies is that most of the devices haven’t been around all that long. The internet started back in the 1990’s and smartphones, like the iPhone are a mere decade old.
Yet beyond the lack of long term results, there is plenty of relative proof that proves that excessive time in front of these devices are causing significant issues in our lifestyles. Moodiness, eyestrain, anxiety, depression, obesity, sleeplessness, chronic stress, and the list goes on and on. All of these can be tied back to how much screen time we have.
According to this article by Delicious Living, picking up a screen for any length of time, changes their brain.
Victoria Dunckley, MD, a Los Angeles–based psychiatrist, noted screen-time expert and author of Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns (New World Library, 2015) says, “In terms of sensory, psychological and cognitive input, electronic screen media is unnaturally intense. It causes enormous amounts of information to be taken in and processed.”
This intensity, she says, drains mental reserves and fractures attention. Radiation from the device and from the wireless connection also disrupts brain waves. The changes can be significant enough to impact frontal lobe functioning during the crucial years when the brain is still developing. “When screen time affects how the child feels, thinks, behaves or socializes on a day-to-day basis, I call it Electronic Screen Syndrome, or ESS,” Dunckley says.
From toddlers to teenagers, too much screen time can lead to addiction to the actual device, lack of social skills, and stunting overall development.
The cons to too much screen time are in no way limited to our children. According to Scripps, spending too much time on our devices and on our computers can effect not only our brain but can also effect us physically.
From the hunchback we tend to have from holding our phones or the poor posture we use while sitting our desks, these types of physical strains can occur.
- Neck aches
- Shoulder aches
Other symptoms of too much screen time can include weight gain, sleeplessness, eye strain and dryness.
Although most people know these cons, we tend to justify the screen time as being better then just staring at the TV. But that is actually a thought process that needs to change.
As stated in Delicious Living,
Compounding the problem for both adults and children, Dunckley says, is that most people erroneously believe that interactive screen time (using educational games or apps, for instance) is better than passive screen time (watching TV), when in fact the opposite has proven true. “The very interactiveness of interactive screen time can overly stimulate the nervous system, especially a developing one,” she says.
Great. Does this mean we should get rid of all the ‘screens’ in our homes, offices, and purses?
Well, no not exactly. There are some Pros to screen time, so let’s take a look at those.
Pros To Screen Time
The reality of the situation is this, our screens are not going anywhere anytime soon. Society as a whole, whether it’s a good thing or bad, is quite dependent on them.
I know this for fact just by living in the state of Florida.
During our last major storm, Hurricane Irma, my phone was right by my side the whole time. It allowed me to connect with family up north to let them know we were OK (I think they were more scared then us), and it also allowed me to watch the storm SLOWLY make it’s trek across our state.
All of this was a good thing.
As For Our Children
Well, going back to the Delicious Living article, we can find that..
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggests screen-time limits for each age group and advises parents to prioritize unplugged time over screen time, also acknowledges that, when used wisely, digital media can help children “create, connect and learn.” A study from the Mount Sinai Health System in New York reported that video gamers make better surgeons. Similar studies tout the benefits for all ages, like connecting with friends and family across the miles, improving motor skills and coordination, learning marketable technology skills and easily tracking important health-related stats like calories eaten or steps taken in a day.
Our devices can also help us communicate with our children during those wonderful teen years too. Whether it’s having fun with them by creating a fun, family movie or having them show you how to use Snapchat filters, we can use our children’s screen time as a means of spending good, quality time with them.
How To Find That Balance
Screen time can be addicting and dangerous to our health and well being, yes, but there are ways to find a happy, healthy balance.
Setting healthy time limits is a must for everyone, at any age. Adults need down time just as much as our kids, so maybe pick a time at night where everything just goes off.
Make sure you are connecting, face to face, no electronics. Make dinner a screen free zone or even the car. Get back to having actual vocal conversations with each other.
Schedule fun, weekly activities for the family or even yourself that won’t include any screens. Get outside, go for a walk, just go on any kind of adventure.
You Can Do It
It may surprise you, but we can live without our screens.
Even as I sit here typing out this post.. staring at my screen, I know that I have to set limits for myself. Social media is part of my daily job, yet I know to be healthy and strong both physically and mentally, I need to go screen free more then I do.
We can do this. We need to do this. Our brains, our bodies, our spirits will thank us in the long run… don’t ya think?
How About You?
Do you spend a lot of time in front of screens? How do you find the balance for you or your family with screen time? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
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