Screen time monitoring is becoming more and more important. In adults, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, sleep issues, mood disorder, and early mortality are all linked to excessive screen time. Whether it is a television, phone, or computer, spending too much time in front of a screen can have serious effects over time. What is even more concerning is that these health risks are associated with more than just a sedentary lifestyle. The content that you are consuming also plays a role in the negative impacts of excessive screen time.
According to the first-quarter 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, nearly half an adults’ day is dedicated to consuming this content. In fact, American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media.-From “Time Flies: U.S. Adults Now Spend Nearly Half A Day Interacting With Media” (2018)
The Health Effects of Screen Time
Screen time alone and also sedentary time, in general, have long been linked to negative health impacts. While you might worry about these impacts in children, adults are also strongly affected.
Screen Time Monitoring: Heart Health
According to a 2021 study, adults over the age of 60 have a four-times increased risk of stroke when they spend more than eight hours of the day in front of a screen (sedentary leisure time). This is a long-term increased risk that can be avoided with regular physical activity.
Screen Time Monitoring: Emotional Health
In 2017, a study of US adults revealed that spending more than six hours per day in front of a screen is strongly correlated with moderate or severe depression. The authors note that females were more likely than males to suffer depression after extended amounts of screen time and that depression was more likely as screen time increased.
Screen Time Monitoring: Metabolic Health
As mentioned in the introduction, too much screen time can also result in metabolic health problems like obesity and diabetes. A 2019 review hammered home the point that the link between screen time and increased risk for obesity in adolescents and children is well confirmed. A paper published in 2017 found that the link between screen time and obesity seems to persist through adulthood as well. Their study also notes that Latinos and males appear to be most at-risk. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease appear to be linked to general sedentary time as well as sedentary screen time.
The average adult will spend the equivalent of 34 years of their lives staring at screens, according to a poll.-from “Average Adult Will Spend 34 Years of Their Life Looking at Screens, Poll Claims“
Screen Time and Children
A 2020 study of children’s health in the US found that only 8.8% of US kids are meeting recommendations for sleep, screen time, and physical activity. Most children are getting enough sleep, but only about 23% of them are getting enough physical activity. Only about 33% of kids were staying within the recommended amount of screen time. Guidelines recommend at least an hour of physical activity per day with no more than two hours of screen time, and 9-12 hours of sleep for children 6-12 and 8-10 hours for children 13-17. The authors indicate that adolescents are most likely to be spending too much time in front of screens and not get recommended sleep or physical activity.
This CDC infographic tool can help you determine if your child is getting too much screen time.
How to Monitor Screen Time
Screen time monitoring has become easier than ever with many free apps available. One screen time monitoring app that you may find useful is Stay Free. Stay Free helps you take your digital well-being into your own hands. You can see your total usage time, your usage time per app, and can even set usage limits. You can even compare with global averages to see how your usage habits compare to others. There are also many parental control apps available for parents to help limit their children’s device usage.
One thing to remember about screen time monitoring apps is that they are only tracking time spent on your phone. You’ll need to manually consider other screen time like television and computer usage. Minimizing screen time can be especially difficult if your work requires computer use. However, the negative effects of screen time are more associated with too much screen time outside of work and the type of media we consume outside of work. This means that those who work in front of a computer all day should consider the effects it can have on them, but still benefit from reducing screen time outside of work.
Most online articles about screen time monitoring focus on the effect it has on kids. However, when parents spend less time on screens, their kids are likely to follow. Here are some tips for adult screen time monitoring:
- Limit social media use to 30 minutes per day
- Outside of work, limit screen time to 2 hours per day
- Set “Bedtime Mode” on your phone
- Turn off notifications before bed
- Keep screens out of your bedroom
- Take micro-breaks from your screen at work
- Make sure your computer screens at work are ergonomically adjusted
- Get regular daily physical activity
- Take care of yourself by eating well and getting good regular sleep
- Remember that balance is key to good health
Finally, if you are not feeling well, seek professional medical advice. Whether you are feeling depressed, losing sleep, or feel uncomfortable with your weight, the internet is not the place to get a medical diagnosis or treatment. Your doctor is always the best person to talk to about your concerns!