Screen time: Good or bad? Apparently, it depends
Most people now believe that too much screen time is not good for your mind and body. But what does science actually say about the impact of screen time?
What do scientists say about screen time?
Studies have undoubtedly concluded that the U.S. population now spends more time with a screen than ever before. However, whether or not this is a problem remains inconclusive. Scientists have only been able to prove a correlation, but proof of causation isn’t quite there.
Regardless, it’s important to take a look at what the research says, as well as pay attention to your natural instinct. Unsurprisingly, most researchers suggest that too much media intake can be harmful. Let’s take a look below.
Babies, toddlers, and littles
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends implementing a media plan for children from birth to preschool, monitoring both the duration and quality of content. Otherwise—the AAP says—children may not develop a healthy understanding of how the world works due to screens replacing activities that are vital to learning, including physical exploration and face-to-face social interaction.
Preliminary data from a study cited by Healthline indicates that 9- and 10-year-old brains are different (not in a good way) when they’ve experienced too much screen time.
Cal’s Greater Good Magazine lists three ways that too much screen time can be harmful to teens:
- It makes them lonely.
- It makes them materialistic.
- It makes them feel inadequate.
The CareWell clinic says that too much screen time will not only cause “computer vision syndrome” but also make adults gain weight, develop chronic neck and back pain, and sleep poorly. The healthcare provider lists impaired cognitive function as another symptom and even suggests that adults are going to die early from too much screen time.
Well, sign me up, Dan.
Why is the research inconclusive?
Things are not always as they appear.
What some say: It says right here that all of the children in this study who watched two or more hours of television per day also had lower test scores. Therefore, regularly watching two hours or more of television will result in lower test scores.
Consider this: What if kids that are allowed to watch unlimited television also don’t typically have consistent guidance and discipline in other areas of their life? Maybe their homework isn’t monitored, they aren’t encouraged to study for tests, and they don’t maintain a regular bedtime that provides adequate rest. These thoughts would suggest that increased television time could have simply been a product of an environment that already would have cultivated an unhealthy adolescent brain and unfavorable school performance, and nothing more.
Let’s try another one.
What some say: It says right here that adults who spend more time in front of a screen are more likely to be overweight. Therefore, spending too much time in front of a screen will result in weight gain.
Consider this: What if increased screen time for adults is indicative of a sedentary lifestyle, such as working on a computer in an office for eight hours per day? Thus, the screen itself wouldn’t be the cause of the weight gain, but rather the level of activity you maintain while spending time in front of the screen.
Screen time: Have some limits, and make sure you also do other things
I’m far from an expert on this subject. Just an interested civilian. I’m really looking forward to seeing results from the pending long-term case studies on this subject. Only then will we have better answers. And with how much our overall screen time has increased, it’s so important to nail this one down!
But in the meantime, take these thoughts into consideration—
- Listen to your mind and body. How do YOU feel after you’ve been scrolling through Instagram for three hours? Set a timer next time and make a promise to yourself that you’ll move on.
- Alright—so, you let your toddler watch his favorite show while you shower in the morning?—fine. Just make sure you’re monitoring the duration and content and also add tons of physical, social, and educational activities throughout the day.
- A “media plan” sounds like a great idea for everyone—not just babies, toddlers, and littles. Make one. It doesn’t have to be huge. Do something small. I’ve started crocheting to take up my idle screen time. It’s been pretty great.
- Maintain balance in your life. Eat healthy meals, learn new things, talk to people face-to-face, leave time for exercise, get some sun, and stretch-stretch-stretch all day/every day.
Regardless of the activity—screen or no screen—if something is holding you back from achieving your goals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, stop doing it. Or at least implement some limitations.
I encourage you all to make a “crochet-media plan” today. How do you plan to avoid 18/7 screen time?