Screens are everywhere we look. From the ever-growing visual real-estate of your smartphone through your laptop or desktop to the TV or games consoles that many of us slump in front of at the end of the day. There’s no escaping it, large or small, we’re obsessed with those pixelated windows to the world!
For many, much of this screen time is unavoidable; after all, the digital transformation of industries in combination with the rise of remote working means that we’re dependent on them for our jobs. However, our regulation 8-hours-a-day is now often surpassed by extra-curricular screen time as we increasingly connect with people through social media or dating apps, purchase our groceries and do our banking online, stream TV shows and movies on demand, and even fixate on our smartwatches while we work out!
Unfortunately, for our bodies and minds, this all-action screen addiction is taking its toll. Several research papers have highlighted its links with obesity, depression, anxiety, insomnia, back and neck pain, decreased eyesight and eye strain, and even poor gut health! On an evolutionary level, we’re simply not made to sit and stare at screens for hours a day, every day.
But what exactly is too much screen time for adults, and where do we draw the line when our lives are increasingly digitized? Here we explore what too much screen time looks like and how you can find a better balance between your digital and real-world self to avoid the
Is all Screen Time for Adults Created Equal?
Of course, not all adults spend the same amount of time at their screens, and for those who don’t spend their working day at a computer, screen time consumption may be significantly less. Knowledge-based workers, however, are perhaps most at risk, spending their days at a computer, continuing to work from their smartphones during the daily commute or when at home, and then also socializing or relaxing behind a screen.
Having said this, while there are clear guidelines on screen time consumption for children, there is no consensus on precisely what constitutes too much screen time for adults. So while you’re scolding your kids for spending too much time on their screens, adults rarely practice what they preach! This means that whatever your day job, you might still be spending enough time at your screen to feel its ill effects.
Currently, some estimates of the average screen time for adults in the US come in at around 7 hours every day. However, during recent lockdowns and covid-19 restrictions, other estimates have suggested that this figure more than doubled. The bottom line is, more than 84% of Americans have smartphones, more than 94% of adults own an HD TV, and around 92% have at least one kind of computer in the house. Whatever your job or level of social media engagement, you’re probably staring at screens for much longer than you imagine.
Negative Aspects of too Much Screen Time
Many of the negative effects of too much screen time have been well studied in children but less so in adults. Nonetheless, there’s little reason to believe that the same issues that have led to calls on screen time restrictions for kids don’t apply to adults, and there is growing evidence to suggest that screens can impact our well-being in a variety of ways.
Some of the well-accepted health risks that have been associated with increased screen time include:
The blue light emitted from screens has been shown to disrupt our circadian rhythms, suppressing melatonin and making it difficult to sleep. Put simply, prolonged screen time before bed tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime, meaning our bodies are more alert instead of tired.
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is an accepted condition caused by extended screen viewing. Eye strain, blurred vision, and dry eyes are all associated with CVS, with levels of discomfort increasing in association with the amount of screen time.
Back and neck pain
Poor posture leading to back, neck, and shoulder pain has been linked to the growing average screen time of adults. Failure to keep screens at a natural eye level is among the chief issues here, although less research has been done on musculoskeletal issues and the ways we hunch over our smartphones!
Reduced mental health
Not only do the above issues impact our mental health, but social media has recently also been in the limelight for affecting our well being negatively. Taken together, increased screen time is linked with depression and anxiety, as well as things such as body image issues and
Reduced mental and physical health means worse relationships. However, in addition to this, if all your social interactions are mediated by a screen, you are less likely to form strong bonds or maintain lasting relationships.
How to Take Control of Your Screen Time
For most of us, reducing our screen time is a challenge. In fact, not only do we work, study, play, and manage our lives through a screen, but there is also evidence to suggest that screens themselves have addictive qualities. It’s no wonder you can’t tear yourself away from your phone or laptop!
However, with the right attitude and approach, you can learn to take control of you screen time consumption and minimize its impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Here we explore how.
Don’t Focus on Screen Time as a Number, Focus on Balance in Your Life
With the average screen time for adults at such scary levels, it can be tempting to just go cold turkey and cut down on your addiction wherever possible. However, the reality is that this may only be sustainable for short periods, perhaps on while vacation or at certain times of the day. A better approach is to focus on bringing balance to your life rather than fixating on screen time as a number!
You can do this in various ways, and many of them don’t require the cold turkey approach which can be problematic for many reasons. Try the following:
Use Do Not Disturb on devices
Most devices today can be set to Do Not Disturb with the click of a button. This means when you finish work, you can sign out for the day and sidestep the temptation to keep going. It also means you can remove the distraction of your phone when you’re spending quality time with the people you care about.
No work apps on your phone
Most knowledge workers also use their personal devices for work, but this can cause problems. If you have work apps on your phone (email, time management apps, project management apps), there is always the temptation to check in after work is done. Delete those apps on your phone, and you can’t be pressured (by your own hand or your boss’) to work during your downtime.
Stay screen-free in bed
We’ve already talked about how blue light can affect your sleep but banning screens from your bedroom also means you’re not randomly scrolling hours after bedtime. Try reading a book instead!
Use Data to Inform Your Habits
Another approach to reducing your screen time is leveraging your devices’ data to understand your habits. Both Apple and Android operating systems now provide screen time tracking through your devices, and several third-party apps can also be used to achieve similar results.
Allowing these services from the device manufacturer to notify you of your screen time consumption, or simply checking in and comparing your stats, can allow you to be more mindful of your habits. In turn, this can help you maximize productivity, reduce procrastination, and allow you to minimize unnecessary screen time.
Taking control of your screen time can also mean higher productivity and greater efficiency, pushing you to make more of the time you need and cut out the time you don’t. Spike email app makes this possible, giving you the tools you need to focus at work and speed up productivity—so you can spend less time at your screen. If you’re looking for ADHD productivity tools, Spike is an excellent tool.
Starting with your inbox, Priority Inbox from Spike automatically sorts your most important emails from those that are less important. So, everything related to your work and personal life is front and center, and all those annoying sales and marketing emails, newsletters, and notifications go to your “Other” inbox where you can sort through them (or not) later.
But that’s not all, redefining the way we use email to communicate is key to reducing screen time, and Spike gives you the chance to do this with Conversational Email. Using Conversational Email, you can cut out all the unnecessary elements in your messages, such as headers and footers, signatures, and formal intros or sign-offs, making the entire experience much more like instant chat. However, unlike instant chat, you can also step back and answer messages in your own time—it’s the perfect balance between email and IM.
Finally, using 1-click video meetings, you can ditch all the other video conferencing apps and keep in touch with colleagues, friends, or family directly through Spike. Cut out sign-ins and app downloads with Spike video meetings and streamline your productivity at home and at work.
For more information on these features and how Spike can help you manage your screen time in other ways, check out the website today. Additionally, for insights into productivity and well-being at work, explore the Spike blog.
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