While it’s true our home and work lives have gone virtual since the pandemic, we have a choice as to whether we allow our devices to consume our time. Phone addiction is widely recognized, but with remote work on the rise, we may be growing more addicted, and reliant, on our computers than cell phones. Employees are spending more time than ever self-navigating through their company’s systems and tinkering with their home office set-ups to improve their work efficiency. However, could spending too much on our screens affect our health?
Experts believe prolonged exposure to screens can harm human health. In a way, the more time we spend on our screens, the less we spend on ourselves. We may find ourselves sleeping less and scrolling more or even eating more and moving less. Excessive screen time can be an easy gateway to phasing out of reality, causing us to neglect our personal needs – such as eating, exercising, and sleeping. Yet, with a few simple tips, you can be a better employee and a better person.
3 Ways Screen Time Affects Our Health
As previously foreshadowed, the biggest drawback of too much screen time is its potential to distract you from reality.
For example, experts discovered that teens aged 13-18 and young adults aged 19-32 (who regularly spend long periods on social media) exhibit higher rates of depression than their counterparts. On top of that, these demographics pose an even higher risk of suicide. This is crucial information to those working in communicative professions, such as public relations and social media marketing and adults with children.
Diving deeper into ways screen time can affect health, experts found that children who frequently use screens between ages 2 and 6 may be more prone to developing emotional problems and experience family dysfunction.
Although these statistics primarily hone in on the ways children are impacted by screen time, adults can still experience depression and social dysfunction from too much exposure. Today, 85% of parents worry about the amount of time their kids spend online – but what about themselves?
The majority of the modern workforce has gone remote, and many companies are working to reinvent the platforms their employees use. Telehealth and telemedicine usage has exploded during the pandemic as more healthcare organizations embrace this way of patient appointments. Patients are now scheduling appointments on their phones and completing healthcare information via online patient intake forms. As a result, employees and patients will need to spend more time on their devices learning how to navigate these new systems. Of course, this will take time. So, how can employees spend the time they need working on digital platforms without risking their health?
1. All Screen Time Is Not Equal
Take it from Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist who specializes in the concept of “digital nutrition.” Digital Nutrition is Brewer’s way of connecting personal health to influences on health. “It’s not just about whether you consume any potential digital junk foods,” says Brewer, “but also your relationship to technology and the role it plays in your family life… We want to avoid using screens to placate tantrums, just like we want to avoid eating ‘treats’ to calm emotional storms.” In other words, reel it into your brain that screen time for work should be approached far more productively than personal screen time.
For instance, watching television has shown more negative effects than gaming or computer use. Why? Unless the program is uncommonly interactive, television doesn’t cause the view to be actively engaged. To put it differently, don’t treat constructive screen time as background noise.
To do so, I encourage you to be an active participant rather than a mindless consumer. While mindless screen consumption would be streaming music and web browsing, active participation would engage in tasks like video chats and content creation.
Ergonomic experts have discovered the key to making screen time more effective for younger children is to share their screen time with family members. This way, they have an outlet to express what they’re seeing. More blatantly, the key to screen time is to release your exposure. What steps do you take to release your digital consumption?
2. Abnormal Screen Habits
Like with cell phones, it’s easy to become compulsive or addicted to our computers. As a result, that could lead you to miss out on real-life social interactions, leaving you feeling less fulfilled with your online interactions. Again, this is pivotal information for those with careers in public relations, marketing, and communications.
By allowing time for boredom, you can create more opportunities for yourself to be creative. Allow your boredom to let loose while working virtually. If not, you may find yourself stuck in virtual reality rather than the present.
Rather than tracking the amount of time you’ve been working, spend your screen time more wisely. For example, don’t forget about your family. 56% feel lonely or anxious without their phone. As a remedy, set consistent expectations for screen time that fit your family’s needs. Furthermore, ensure time is set aside for exercise and other activities you enjoy. This wouldn’t be a bad time to transform your schedule into a routine.
Moreover, designate screen-free times throughout your day. It’s recommended we take 15-20 minute breaks for every few hours spent looking at a screen. Perhaps you could use this time to go on a walk, leaving your devices at home. If you have other remote workers or distance learners in your home, consider taking activity breaks with them. If everyone leaves their phone behind, you may find yourselves communicating more. This could also be a great time to release what you’ve been doing on your individual’s screens throughout the day. Taking a breather to catch up with yourself and your loved ones can go a long way toward peace of mind.
3. The Need For Screens
Overall, screens can create a fleet of positive opportunities. Outside of work, the Internet gives us opportunities to connect with like-minded peers, explore our interests from a wider scope, and keep in touch with our loved ones.
Since the pandemic, more have moved toward remote work than ever before, and the Internet is at peak usage. On top of that, 66% of children spend more time watching screens. 60% spend 4+ hours per day with screens, and 49% spend 6+ hours online each day – which is a 500% increase from 2019.
By recognizing that screens are a societal crutch and understanding their risks, you and your children can engage in much safer realms. If you’re wondering how much screen time is too much, take it from the experts. The WHO & CDC recommend 3 hours or less for children under 18 years old, and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a 1 hour limit for children under six years old. While distance learning and remote work don’t quite adhere to these recommendations, one still shouldn’t spend more than 2-3 hours at any given time sucked into a screen. If so, remember to take routine breaks to allow your eyes time to rest.
Rising evidence shows how we use technology is far more impactful than how much time we spend on screens. Technology has kept us afloat throughout the pandemic, but it can easily be harmful to our health. Are you paying attention to the ways you engage with tech?