How to Combat the Negative Effects of Too Much Screen Time

Time to read: 3 minutes

Combatting Too Much Screen Time Summary:

  • Between social media, remote work, lockdowns, and a plethora of current events, the world is glued to a screen of some sort longer than ever.
  • Before the pandemic, adults were spending half of the day (the full 24 hours) in front of a screen.
  • The effects of too much screen time include eyestrain, headaches, dry eyes, and more – and we discuss how to alleviate these effects.

With the rise of social media, we already knew that we were spending too much time on our screens. Now, there is more screen time than ever with most jobs and schools remote as well as lockdowns and current events. We are glued to our screens more than ever. Even if your job involved a lot of sitting or screen time even before going remote, there were still mid-day lunch or coffee breaks as well as chats with other staff members to break up the day. Looking back, there were many small breaks and scenery changes throughout the day. Being stuck working from home, not everyone has that luxury anymore.

How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

There is not a set number. However, according to a study by Neilson, adults spend 11+ hours on some type of screen, interacting with media, which is a significant increase from previous studies. With prolonged use, many people experience discomfort after prolonged device use, also known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). This discomfort can be caused by poor lighting, screen glares, or incorrect viewing angle/ distance. Symptoms of CVS include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye redness

What to Do to Alleviate the Effects of Too Much Screen Time

Too much screen time can negatively impact both your physical and mental health. It is important to be wise about how and when you are using your devices. Although you may not be able to fully unplug, there are some things you and your family can do to minimize screen time and improve your health when dealing with remote working and learning.

  • Use a Matte Screen Protector: Typical device screens will reflect just about any other light that is in the room, causing your eyes to work harder than they need to. If possible, use a matte screen protector to help eliminate this cause of eye strain.
  • Invest in a Pair of Blue Light Glasses: Blue light scatters more than other light, reducing contrast on the screen, which is what fatigues the eyes. It also penetrates all the way to the retina (the back of your eye) and over time, increases your risk for eye disease.  To counteract these negative effects, blue light glasses filter out the blue light waves, reducing eye fatigue.
  • Keep Your Brightness Lower: When your screen is significantly brighter or darker than the lighting in the room, your eyes have to work harder. Turn down your brightness when in a darker space, and increase it when in brighter spaces, that way your eyes are not constantly adjusting between the brightnesses in the room and on the screen.
  • Stop Using Devices Before Bed: Multiple studies show that the blue light from devices can interrupt the natural sleep and wake cycles in the body when used frequently before bed. Blue light is stimulating, so using it right before bed can make it harder to sleep. Limit yourself to an hour or two before bed and then shut it off. 
  • Blink Enough: While staring at our screens, we blink significantly less than we should. Remind yourself to blink more often than you think you need to, your eyes will thank you.
  • Look Away: Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a break from the screen directly in your face and will help reduce fatigue.
  • Take Breaks That Do Not Involve Screens: Often times when we want to relax, we grab our phone to scroll on social media or put on the TV to watch a movie or show. Although this is a great way to unwind, it is adding to your overall screen time. After a long day of working on a screen, give your eyes a break and find another enjoyable activity you can do to unwind that does not involve a screen. Need some inspiration? Here is our article that offers 28 different ideas of self-care.

The Mind and Body Approach

Despite the obvious effects of prolonged screen time, it can have detrimental effects on other parts of your body and your mental health. Being on a computer for hours on end can create neck and back pain and can even disturb your sleep and focus.

How to fix:

  • Stretch: Sitting for long periods of time can create a lot of strain in the neck and back muscles. Make sure to get up and stretch and include moments of reverse movements, such as looking up or pushing your shoulders back to counteract the time spent hunched over looking down at a screen.
  • Move Around: Make sure you get up and move. Now that morning commutes and coffee and lunch runs midday are a no-go, remind yourself to get up and take a break to move around. or Get some fresh air, just as you would working in an office.
  • Take a Break From Video Calls: Take a break from constant video calling, and pick up the phone the old fashioned way. Catch up with a friend, or see if you can schedule any of your meetings over the phone instead of over video for a change of pace to eliminate unnecessary time spent staring at the screen.
  • Delete Distracting Apps: Being on the computer all day, there are a plethora of distractions. While a perfect way to kill time, these apps can make you unproductive and cause you to have to stay on the computer longer to compensate for time lost distracted.
  • Set Timers: Working from home comes with its own set of distractions, but a full workday on the computer can make it even harder to focus. Instead of tasks being in different locations or rooms, it is all taking place in one location, on the same screen. To help yourself get things done more efficiently, set timers throughout the day for when you will work and when you will take breaks. When the timer goes off, change something about your setting to give yourself a boost.

In Conclusion

Although spending hours on a computer is unavoidable in a remote world, there are things you can do to help counteract the negative effects of too much screen time. From matte screen protectors, blue light glasses, and lower brightnesses, to stretching and deleting apps, there are many things you can do to help yourself cope with screen time both now and in the long run.

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