Smartphones. Tablets. Computers. Video games. TVs. Everywhere you look, a screen is not far from view. Like many of us, you’re probably guilty of electronic bingeing, especially as the holidays are wrapping up. While these devices may make your life more convenient and entertaining, they can also wreak havoc on your health.
Many parents are concerned that their kids spend too much time in front of a screen – and that all those hours spent in front of one screen or another can cause adverse effects. But it isn’t only kids who are logging too many screen hours these days. Adults also spend too many hours per day staring at screens.
The average child spends 5-7 hours a day in front of a screen. That’s 2 ½ hours more per day than kids were spending in front of screens just a decade ago, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This excessive exposure has been shown to contribute to a host of issues in children, including lack of sleep, sensory overload, attention problems, difficulties in school, an increased risk of childhood obesity and other physical consequences. Some blame excessive screen time on a higher incidence of kids who are moody, impulsive and can’t pay attention. Multiple studies have even shown that spending too much time online or gaming can lead to atrophy in the gray and white matter of the brain and impaired cognitive functioning.
But kids aren’t the only ones glued to a screen for exercise times. In fact, adults spend nearly 11 hours per day using electronic devices, according to a 2016 report released by Nielsen, a company which measures media consumption in the U.S. Of course, many adults have no choice but to use a computer for most of the work day, but adults also spend exercise time looking at phones, tablets and television screens.
What are some effects of too much screen time?
Eye strain. You may find your eyes feel tired or irritated. Staring at a screen for long periods of time can make your eyes red, weary, and dry because you don’t blink as often.
Aches, pains and stiffness. The way you angle your head when looking down at your phone or tablet can lead to pain and stiffness, especially in your neck. Computer screens not set at the proper distance or height can also be to blame for headaches or discomfort in your neck, shoulders and back.
Sleep troubles. The blue light emitted from screens like televisions, computers, tablets and phones can lead to problems falling or staying asleep. Overstimulation from lights, sounds and the information obtained through screens may also result in increased anxiety or stress, contributing to more sleepless nights.
Repetitive use injuries. Using your computer, phone or gaming device for hours on end can lead to repetitive use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis.
Obesity. Studies have shown correlations between the amount of time you spend watching television or playing video games and an increased risk of being overweight. This may be due in part to the fact that people who spend more time in front of screens tend to spend less time engaged in physical activity.