Too much screen time has been linked to obesity and depression among people 18 and younger. But what about people 18 and older?
More research needs to be conducted on the health effects of electronic device usage on adults. But we know this for certain. Adults spend a lot of time staring at a screen — even more so during the pandemic. Time spent on smartphones, TVs, computers and video game consoles increased as people spent more time indoors.
“We know that too much of anything that puts a strain on your eyes is not good for your health,“ says Vivian Tran, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Mission Valley. “Excessive screen time can also result in headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain and make it hard to fall asleep.”
Studies show many adults indulge in as many as 11 hours of screen time a day. In many cases, they have jobs that require viewing screens for eight hours or longer a day. Fortunately, there are ways to limit screen time or its effects if it is interfering with your health and well-being.
Dr. Tran recommends a balanced approach where your average screen time isn’t taking away from other important activities, such as exercise.
The following are tips to help you curb your time on an electronic device and develop healthy habits when screen time cannot be avoided:
During the pandemic, many adults worked from home, traveled less, did not dine out as much and turned to their screens more often to stay connected. But now that things are opening again, it may be a good time to take stock of your screen time and set screen limits.
Smartphones now have screen time functions that allow you to check your daily and weekly usage and make adjustments, such as setting usage limits for social media apps. If you set a limit, you’ll get a screen notification saying your time is up.
You can take back control of your screen time by checking how much time you are spending in front of the screen for something other than work or school and replace any unnecessary usage with non-screen activities, such as going out for a walk or a hike.
Spending time staring at a camera for long periods can make us uncomfortable and tired. If you’re spending a lot of time on video calls or virtual meetings, you could develop meeting or Zoom fatigue.
Try to limit the amount of time you spend on video calls to those that are necessary or schedule time in between video calls so you can get up and move around.
If you find it difficult to disengage from your screen, let technology help to make you screen free for a while during various times of the day.
Use your phone or calendar system to set alarms reminding you to take breaks. Turn off notifications from messages or social media platforms to reduce distractions. That way you can leave your phone alone until you are ready and finished with other activities.
You can also use high-tech solutions to combat inactivity and weight gain. Activity monitors worn on the body, such as Fitbits, tend to increase your physical activity level simply because you’re paying attention to it.
If you work in front of a screen, make sure you take a break and look away at least every 30 minutes.
Stand up, stretch and move around. When you’re in your chair, back and neck stretches can help keep muscles loose.
Learn a few “chair yoga” moves and practice them for five minutes at frequent intervals throughout the day.
If you have a way to transform your workspace into a standing desk for at least part of the day, consider doing it.
Standing desks are adjustable desks that allow you to stand up while working. They are becoming more popular and promote good health.
Standing, for example, lowers your risk of weight gain and obesity. “Remember, the fewer hours you spend sitting, the better,” Dr. Tran says.
If you’re on the phone a lot at work, get a headset and walk around when you talk on the phone.
A natural, upright posture (with slight curves in the lower back and shoulders) helps to support your head and reduces fatigue and aches.
Paying attention to your posture throughout the day, whether sitting or standing, can help to reduce some of the strains of screen time.
If you’re working from home, you can design a home workspace that promotes good posture and movement to prevent neck and back pain.
We tend to eat more when we’re watching TV or playing games. To combat that trend, designate separate mealtimes and stick to them. Banish snacks from the entertainment area.
Avoid using any kind of backlit screen in the hour right before bedtime, because these emit light that can interrupt your quality of sleep. If possible, keep devices — including TVs — out of the bedroom completely.