The Hidden Dangers of Too Much Screen Time
From cell phones and tablets to televisions and laptops, glowing screens are around us 24-7. Sure, these devices make our lives much more convenient (and more entertaining), but they can also wreak havoc on our health. People who spent four hours per day in front of screens in their spare time had a 2.3-fold risk of cardiovascular problems compared with people who clocked less than two hours of screen time per day. Excessive screen time has also been linked to problems with vision, sleep, weight gain and more.
And too much screen time is just as problematic for children, if not more so. Studies have found that excessive media exposure in kids may contribute to attention problems, difficulties in school, sleep issues, eating disorders and obesity.
The problem is clear, but what’s the solution in today’s digital age? It’s impractical to shun screens entirely, but these simple strategies can help reduce exposure:
Don’t keep your phone on your nightstand. This will help you resist the temptation to look at it as soon as you wake up.Your actions in the early a.m. set the tone for the rest of the day, and you have the power to nip your screen addiction in the bud first thing. Use the morning to prioritize healthier activities such as exercising, making breakfast or connecting with your family.
Go old school and pick up a paperback. Not so long ago, people used to unwind after work by picking up their favorite magazine or novel. Instead, people now transition from computer screen to e-reader or tablet – a pattern that often continues until bedtime. By reading something printed on paper, you can limit some of the wearing effects of staring at a screen all day.
Find a healthy hobby. Netflix is great, but certainly isn’t the only way to enjoy your free time. Stimulate your mind with board games, challenge your endurance on a run or test your culinary know-how in the kitchen.
Create a screen-free zone. It’s much easier to say no to technology when it isn’t staring you in the face. Establish a safe haven in your home, such as your bedroom or child’s playroom, where you and your family won’t have to resist the allure of a television or computer.
Enjoy everything in moderation. It’s unlikely that you’re going to give up television and other recreational screen time entirely – and that’s okay. As with most things in life, these screen-based activities should be enjoyed in moderation. Simply establish rules and guidelines to ensure you don’t go overboard. Want to watch your favorite show on Thursday night? Go for it! But limit yourself to that one hour.
Set your curfew. One more BuzzFeed article couldn’t hurt, right? If this sounds familiar, you’ll understand how easy it is to get sucked into the Internet instead of preparing for bed. Remind yourself that it’s time to shut down by setting an alarm for the time that you want to sign off (and then putting your phone aside after that!).
Photo credit: ebayink