The average adult in this day and age will spend 34 years of their life on a screen and 25 years of their life asleep. Since the average American lives to be 79, that’s only 20 years being active, social, and doing some of the things that really matter. Children ages 8 to 18, on average, spend nearly eight hours per day on entertainment media, whether that is watching television, playing video games, or scrolling through social media feeds. Adults, spending 11 hours a day on average, are no better, although many spend most of their hours working on a computer. These are not just numbers, as these statistics have a huge relationship with health.
One of the biggest problems with using technology is the large amount of blue light that screens emit. Blue light can potentially damage retina cells, which can lead to macular degeneration and cause vision loss. Sunlight is another source of blue light, but that does not pose an extreme risk for our eyes because most of us don’t spend hours looking into the sun. In addition to the great amount of time we spend looking at screens, technology is often very close to our eyes.
While some forms of screen time can be educational, even those times can have negative effects. Watching a screen can increase the risk for obesity and heart problems. Most people sit when they are on their phone, watching TV, or working on their computer, meaning that these countless hours on technology are spent not being active. Additionally, from video games and TV, especially in children and teens, people can begin a desensitization towards violence. After seeing so many acts of violence, it’s easy to grow accustomed to seeing those things. Educational issues and issues with relationships can also arise. For example, those with TVs in their bedroom tend to do worse on exams than those without TVs in their bedroom. Moreover, 75% of teens say that they have a smartphone, and 50% claim that they feel addicted to it. It’s easy to get sucked in from one YouTube video to another, to continue scrolling through posts on social media, or to start texting a friend and the next thing you know is that it’s an hour later. In one study, the media number of text messages teenagers send in one day is around 100. This works both ways, though, as parents sometimes do the same thing. One third of children in a study claimed that they felt unimportant when their parent sent a text during a family activity such as playing or eating a meal.
If you watch TV before going to bed like I do, or even if you play games on your phone before going to bed, your sleep, specifically the lack thereof, can be a negative side effect. Screens can inhibit melatonin, which is a sleep hormone. This means that staring at a screen can prevent you from sleeping as well as you would than if you were doing something else, such as reading, journaling, or doing something active. Normally, that’s not what I would want to do in the cold weather after a long day at school, so it’s important to find things that we really enjoy doing, such as playing board games with your family, making bracelets with a friend, going on a walk to watch the sun go down if the weather permits, or reading a good book. I have set a goal to work on a few extra math problems before I go to bed. That way, I will detach from screens, get my mind working, and prepare myself for my exam at the end of the school year.
These days, stepping away from technology can be much harder because of online learning, but there are ways that we can try to make the situation better. A few people that I know stand up during parts of class, stretch, or even do some minor exercises to get themselves moving. I sometimes eat lunch standing up. It’s also very important to step away from the screen during breaks in between classes. Whenever I have the chance, I print worksheets instead of filling them out on my computer, and I take notes by hand instead of on a document online. Hopefully we will return to school safely very soon, but in the meantime it’s crucial that we do minor actions to distance ourselves from screens. The little things add up.
Sources: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, StudyFinds, VeryWellFamily, AVG Technologies, HealthMatters, Mayo Clinic