How Is Screen Time Affecting Your Mental & Physical Health?

May 2, 2021

Rae Muff

by Rae Muff
PT, PTA South Chandler

In a recent survey, it was found that most Americans spend nearly half of their waking hours looking at a screen. And, 79 percent of the respondents of one survey felt that their screen time had increased in the last 5 years.
Our physical therapy clinic is often looking for ways to help our patients improve their health. With screen time becoming more prevalent, how does this usage affect our health?

6 Ways Too Much Screen Time Can Impact Your Physical and Mental Health

Man sleeping on his side.

  • Sleep
    There have been several studies that have revealed that those who have increased phone and computer usage often have more sleep disturbances. Research has shown that the light emitted from your device can affect melatonin production and trick your brain into thinking it is not time for sleep.
  • Vision
    Staring at the computer for prolonged periods of time has been known to cause strained and dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches. It was found that nearsightedness in the U.S. has increased from 25% to 41.6%in the last 30 years, which may be an effect of too much screen time and not enough sunlight.
  • Weight Gain
    It was found that those who spend more time watching TV have a higher chance of being overweight and less active.
  • Overall Health
    Typically, when watching TV, using a computer, or using our phones, we are sitting. Prolonged sitting has been known to lead to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It should also be noted that we will typically find ourselves in a hunched-over posture when using devices for extended periods of time, which can lead to neck or back pain.
  • Learning
    It was found that kids and young adults who spend large amounts of time in front of the screens are more likely to develop attention disorders.
  • Social Skills
    With screen time becoming more prevalent in children, it has been found that children are spending more time watching videos or exploring the web rather than creating experiences for themselves, which causes them to be less confident. Technology also seems to be affecting social skills in some children because of the lack of face-to-face communication.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested children under 2 years of age should avoid all screen time and limit screen time to only 1 hour for children aged 2-5.

So how can we have healthy habits when we are constantly surrounded by screens?

  • Phone-Free Zones
    Set time aside each day without your phone. Make a rule that phones are not allowed at the dinner table or in the bedroom in order to increase family time at meals and improve sleep quality.
  • 20-20-20 Rule
    For every 20 minutes of looking at a screen, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away. This rule can help to decrease the effects of prolonged screen time on your eyes.
  • Fun Away From the Screen
    Play a board game, put together a puzzle, read a book, or go outside! There is so much that can be done that does not involve sitting behind your computer or phone. Not only can this improve your physical health, but it can also improve your mental health as well!
  • Monitor Your Posture
    If you need to look at your phone or computer, make sure you monitoring your posture. The optimal viewing angle is around 15 degrees. This will help to decrease potential neck and back pain. A physical therapist can help you to correct your posture.

With technology and screens becoming more prevalent, it is important that we acknowledge how they may be affecting our daily life and take the necessary steps to improve our health habits. If pain is keeping you indoors and stuck on your phone or television; we can help. Our highly trained staff has expertise in a vast number of areas and they can help you with any pain or injury you might be suffering from.

If you’re in pain, schedule a free assessment today.

Sources:
http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/hpcd/chp/cdrr/obesity/tvviewing/tvscreeninfo.html
https://www.rallyhealth.com/health/screen-time-affects-health
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/04/16/how-too-much-screen-time-affects-kids-bodies-and-brains/
https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx

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