Symptoms of too much screen time from addiction to neck pain and how to fix it
Many of us spend hours every day in front of a computer for our jobs – and when the evening comes around we’re streaming shows on our TV, scrolling through social media on our phones or browsing the internet on our tablets.
Does that sound a little too much to you?
It doesn’t appear to be too healthy, does it?
On average, us Brits spend around half the day looking at a screen, with some 30 per cent of adults admitting to being online ‘almost constantly’. Is it time we broke this vicious circle? Many experts seem to think so.
So how much screen time is too much?
There are very clear guidelines on how much screen time kids should have – and it’s capped at one hour per day
Perhaps surprisingly there isn’t actually a recommended maximum number of screen hours for us grown-ups, but there is clear evidence that too much of it can badly affect your health.
For example, this study published by the National Library of Medicine discovered that anyone spending six hours or more per day gazing at a screen had a higher risk of depression.
And this study published by Guildford Press Periodicals noted that restricting social media use to half an hour a day lead to a ‘significant improvement in well-being’.
Experts say adults should limit their screen time outside of work to less than two hours per day. The ‘gained’ extra time should then be channelled into some physical activity.
Negative Effects of Too Much Screen Time
Addictive Behaviours – Though it seems like this all-consuming tech has been around forever, social media and smartphones are still relatively new, and as such the full impact they have on humans is yet to be totally understood.
Recent studies show people can become addicted to smartphones and social media. This can manifest itself into constantly thinking about their device and craving to use it. Obsessively picking up your phone is surprisingly common, with many using their device as a coping tool or to alter their mood. While this can work in the short-term, it can also inevitably lead to symptoms of withdrawal. As with a lot of things, it really becomes a problem if this behaviour starts to interfere with everyday life.
Not sleeping well – The blue light emitted from our screens tells our brain to stay awake. And this constant input throughout the day can make it harder to relax and unwind at night.
Headaches and eye pain – Most of us have experienced this at some point or another, and that’s fatigue or discomfort in your eyes from too much screen time. It’s sensible to reduce the brightness settings on any screen, as this can place further strain on your eyes, which can lead to headaches.
Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain – All that time sitting at your desk typing or holding a phone and looking down places undue strain on the neck, shoulders and back.
Changes in Cognition – It is well documented that too much screen time is bad for children’s developing brains, but what impact does too much screen time have on adult brains? A 2020 study published by ScienceDirect showed people with a diagnosed smartphone addiction had problems with the part of their brain that transmits messages, as well as experiencing diminished cognitive performance.
Less Physical Activity – Before smartphones, people would generally be inclined to be more physically active, such as taking walks or playing sports. It is important to remember that a sedentary lifestyle – which is one society is increasingly moving towards – is directly linked to an increased risk of obesity and other physical health problems.
Top tips for getting your screen time down
Set a timer This can be surprisingly effective. Either use the timer on your phone or an old-school egg timer whenever you are watching television or using a device. When the timer sounds, that’s your signal to walk away from the screen and do something which gets your body moving.
Turn those notifications off These can be all-consuming, but you do have the power to limit their interference in your life. The trouble with notifications is they trigger you to look at your phone. And once engaged it’s highly likely to lead you down a rabbit hole of then spending additional time on your phone beyond the initial notification.
Get that phone out of the bedroom Many of us give in to temptation and scroll through our phones in bed at night or when we first wake up in the morning. This practice can wreak havoc with our sleep and significantly add to our daily screen time. It is a better idea to use an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake up and leave your phone well away from your bedroom.