SCREEN TIME VS REAL TIME
Most of us wouldn’t like the idea of allowing young children being exposed to screens long hours spells – Whether it’s the phone, computer screen, Kindle, tablet or any other digital device born from technological advancements. Conventional wisdom agrees that too much screen time can’t be good for growing kids and that there should be limits, but do we draw the line for our-ADULTselves? However we must realise that we aren’t immune to such problems either. The effects of screen addiction or excessive screen exposure don’t discriminate by age. Since there’s nobody
to regulate our screen time, so self-regulation is a MUST.
Today’s millennials or Net Generation sometimes also called the iGeneration are the first generation to come of age in a world that is fully saturated by digital media, including smartphones. Studies and statistics prove that across the world, many young adults are falling into a screen-obsessed lifestyle. We spend at least 6 hours on the computer doing work, and an additional average of almost 4 hours on leisure usage – surfing social media, watching Netflix or even random web searches to entertain ourselves in the middle of work.
None other than Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, wrote an editorial lamenting the Pandora’s box she and her husband helped open. “I spent my career in technology. I wasn’t prepared for its effect on my kids,” she wrote. “Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up.”
SCREEN TIME AND HEALTH RISKS
- Metabolic Syndrome – Most of the time we’re sitting down while we’re on our screens. A sedentary lifestyle, such as sitting in front of the computer or television, can put you at a greater risk of illnesses. Metabolic syndrome combines diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure; it’s a pretty toxic cocktail of poor health, apparently linked to an abnormally sedentary lifestyle. Other cluster of risk factors includeheart diseases, stroke, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels and some types of cancer.
- Vulnerable to Eye Strain – Looking at a screen for extended periods of time can cause “computer vision syndrome” producing symptoms like : strained or dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches due to the blue light that’s typically emitted from screens. Blue light from screens leads to eye strain and discomfort and poorer vision. It has been found that excessive screen time may also damage the retina.
- Sleep Cycle Disturbances and Insomnia – Excessive or continual exposure to the screens makes it harder to fall asleep when it’s bedtime as the blue light from your screens disrupts your melatonin levels (an hormone that regulates sleep–wake cycles). Studies show that the blue light from the device screens can actually trick your brain into thinking it’s still daylight that leads to extended periods of wakefulness. This can make it harder to fall – and stay – sleep. The mental stimulation from processing online content also keeps your brain alert – way too alert for sleeping. The cumulative effect of the lack of restful sleep or irregular sleeping patterns or poor quality of sleep can lead to exhaustion, more irritable behaviours and even insomnia in many cases.
- Overall drop in fitness levels – Using digital devices robs you of the time you can spend exercising and being physically active. Consequently, your fitness levels decline and you may find yourself getting breathless more easily even when you partake in basic activities like walking or climbing the stairs. We are turning into an inactive community. (Take the HINT- go for daily brisk walks, climb staircases whenever possible & avoid elevators if possible, renew gym memberships while ashore OR practise YOGA under guidance of a certified yoga trainer ONLY).
- Weight – Sitting continuously facing the screens for extended/ long hours at a time boosts the risk of obesity clubbed with several possible contributing factors like less physical activity time, inadequate & poor sleep quality. Moreover seeing more ads for unhealthy foods, binging on junk foods when engrossed watching TV or working at the desk boosts the risk of weight gain. Eating too much or too less, not chewing food properly due to use of technology (phones, TV etc.) at the table that causes people to get distracted & pay less attention to hunger signals & actual body requirement.
- Physical Aches and Poor postures – Poor posture when using screens can cause chronic neck, shoulder, forearms, wrists, fingers and back pain. Spending long hours at a desk or with your head bowed down to look at your phone doesn’t feel uncomfortable when you’re doing it, but you may find yourself experiencing unexplained muscle aches. It’s the discomfort in the neck and spine that happens when you spend too much time hunched over your devices. Studies have shown that slouchers have lower self-esteem and are less productive.
SCREEN TIME AND MENTAL HEALTH RISKS
- Rewires Brain in bad way – Neuroimaging research has shown that too much screen usage seems to result in grey matter shrinkage, problems with white matter’s
ability to communicate, hamper development of compassion for others, a lot more cravings, and general poorer cognitive performance. Too much screen time affects a person’s ability to plan, prioritize, organize, and complete routine and easy tasks. It affects a person’s impulse control, which means he or she might start exhibiting more erratic behaviour. Cognitive imaging studies have found that spending too much screen time will lead less efficient information processing. In the long run may hamper basic skills to work on-board like – Analytical thinking / troubleshooting skills, impaired decision making, inappropriate planning, promptness in emergencies. Time spent on screens decreases brain connectivity, whereas reading a book does the exact
opposite (Take the HINT and reach a bookstore & avoid Kindle/ Tablet/ eReaders).
- Poor Understanding of Emotions – This is an intriguing one. Even if you didn’t grow up with an iPad within reach, lack of frequent face-to-face interaction (in favour of Facebook, Instagram and other simulated emotional connections) may actually impact on your ability to process emotion properly. A weak social circle is connected to loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other psycho-social issues. People now struggle with “emotion regulation” (or emotional intelligence) — the ability to process and manage strong (sometimes uncomfortable) feelings. For kids and adults alike, escaping into a digital world is an easy, accessible way of coping. In case of social media, it can increase exposure to threats like
cyberbullying, which can lead to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem.
- Anxiety – That uneasy sensation when the Wi-Fi is lagging or the irritation you feel when a webpage takes too long to load? The impulse to unlock your phone or open a new tab the moment you start feeling restless is one big indicator that you may be addicted to your digital devices. These feelings are all too familiar to many of us and we tend to experience it on a daily basis.
- Depression – Few major components impacting the state of mind: Comparing to Others: One of the most significant problems that come out of screen time for an individual that may need help with depression is their ongoing comparison of themselves to others. Takes Away from Other Activity: The more time we spend looking at what everyone else is doing the less we spend on improving our own. The comparison trap is real. Many times, we berate ourselves for not living life ‘as well’ as someone else. Sometimes that someone else is someone we don’t even know personally (e.g. a celebrity).
- Impulsivity – Addiction and reward seeking Dopamine, the “feel-good hormone,” is part of the brain’s pleasure and reward circuits. Playing video games turns on similar brain regions as those linked to cravings for drugs and gambling. It’s the same for social media — every time we see a new post or get a reaction to ours, it’s like a hit of brain candy.
- Guilt – When you’re aware that you should be doing something else instead of being online and you can’t shake off the guilt for not spending more time being social or productive, your mind is probably subconsciously hinting that there is a better use for your time. Don’t ignore these feelings – avoidance will only escalate the guilt. Games turns on similar brain regions as those linked to cravings for drugs and gambling. It’s the same for social media — every time we see a new post or get a reaction to ours, it’s like a hit of brain candy.
SCREEN TIME AND STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS
Skipping too many social gatherings or excessive usage of your phone at the dinner table can strain relationships. Technology (phones, TV etc.) at the meal table caused people to feel more distracted and less socially engaged. Your family and friends may feel like you aren’t treating them as a priority and end up feeling alienated. It may be time to reconsider your screen time usage when the people that are supposed to be closest to you start becoming more distant.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT – ARE WE GETTING “TECH SAVVY” OR “TECH SLAVES”
Probably the MOST concerning question we need to
ask ourselves TODAY. It’s time we do some realistic
It may be more practical to think in terms of how your
time spent with screens affects your daily essentials.
Are you getting enough sleep, exercise or outdoor
If your screen time has you missing meals on a
regular basis (regardless if it’s due to work or not),
then it’s high time that you find a way to dial things
Consider making notes of the activities/ hobbies
which you missed out due to the loss (or lack) of
The goal isn’t to avoid screen time entirely, as that’s
probably not realistic in modern life. However, if
we’re going to use any device, we need to essentially
be mindful of our usage & dependence on the
“It’s all about BALANCE.”
The above article is adapted from different readings, articles on technology in the newspapers.
Feel free to write to us at [email protected] ~ Editor’s Desk.