The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly of “Screen Time”
Do you worry about how much time your children spend plugged in? It seems all day long they are staring at their smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and television sets. Heck, once they get to school, they may also have to spend time looking at a computer screen, an audiovisual presentation, or the monitor of another electronic device. By now you’ve heard all the damning evidence about how “screen time” is turning your child into a lazy, overweight zombie, and you’re frustrated your kids don’t listen to you when you preach on the subject.
Maybe they don’t listen because they are learning from your behavior (yep, I’m looking at you, smartphone-tethered moms and dads).
Marketing research powerhouse, Nielsen, has data which shows Americans are plugged in and watching more than ever before. While that is probably not any kind of newsflash, the numbers are pretty scary. The research collected by Nielsen shows that the typical US adult spends over 11 hours a day watching and interacting with electronic displays, or listening to music. As much as 4 hours of that time is spent on a smartphone, tablet or computer, with another 5 hours spent watching television.
By the way, we all know that too much screen time is really bad for adults and children, right?
The Upside of Screen Time
Honestly, it’s hard for me to think of an upside with this topic due to all the ill effects (such as neurotransmitter and hormone disruptors, prefrontal-lobe deactivation) that occur in the brain when screens are on.
However, for this blog post I want to help you understand that the real problem is the blue light which emanates from many electronic displays that is very hazardous to our health. Though they may not appear blue to you, they put off a blue light that affects your vision both positively and negatively.
On the positive side of the coin, blue light exposure increases alertness (have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night and checked your phone and then couldn’t fall back to sleep?). It has also been shown to improve cognitive function and boost memory. Therefore, when you and your kids flip on that television set or check your email on your smartphones, some positive things may be happening.
The problem is the addictive nature of screen time.
Just like a single glass of wine has been shown to benefit health in a number of ways, some people have a hard time stopping at one glass. This leads to the downside of drinking alcohol, and the same thing can happen when you or your children get too much exposure to blue screens.
The Downside of Too Much Screen Time Is Very Real
Blue light goes straight through to your retina. This is what causes the short-term energy boost and improvement in focus, mental function and memory. Overexposure has been linked to a greater chance of developing macular degeneration. In other words, your eyesight suffers. Harvard Health has conducted research which shows blue light exposure negatively affects sleep patterns, and can even harm your immune system.
Then there is the problem of inactivity. Kids spend up to 4 times more in front of an electronic display as they do playing outside before they reach the age of 7.
That disturbing info is served up by The Independent, which is an online magazine. Look at your own behavior, moms and dads. You are probably spending much more time solitary and immobile staring at a computer monitor or smartphone than you are socializing and being active.
Socialization and Physical Activity Are the Key
Too much screen time makes children (and adults) moody. This happens because most screen time happens when the user is performing little to no physical activity. Much of it is done sitting. A lack of physical movement leads to the production of chemicals and hormones that can disturb your moods and emotions. It also makes the mind and body lazy and more inclined to continue to be physically inactive.
In other words, you need to get up and get moving! This is hard to do if you are staring at your smartphone unless you want to mindlessly step out in front of a bus while you are watching a funny cat video.
Socialization is essential, too. As physical activity helps regulate hormones that improve moods and feelings of happiness, socialization does as well. Begin socializing more with your kids and friends, rather than texting with them. This is definitely a good idea if you have found your kiddos (or you) are moody, crazy, and lazy most of the time.
Start cutting back on the screen time for yourself and your children to get outside more. Go on walks together in the neighborhood, or find things you like to do in the backyard. With weather getting nicer out, there are tons of games you can set up outside; like a basketball hoop, a badminton net, or just toss a frisbee around. Try building a small garden together, as a way to connect more with the food you eat. How about getting to know some of your neighbors more and having a pot luck once a month? There are so many different ways you can connect with others in a way you will find is so much more meaningful than getting ‘likes’ for your post on Instagram.
It’s simple really: if you’re worried about how much screen time your children have, it’s a good idea to look at your level of screen time, too. Then do something to make a change for the good!
Do you have ways you are successful in limiting screen time for yourself and your kids? Please share in the comments below so we can all benefit!
If you are interested in learning more about how you can support your family’s wellness, download my FREE guide here on 12 Steps to Totally Transform Your Family’s Health!
Wishing you well,
Hi! I'm Dr. Jessica
I’m Dr. Jessica Payne, Medical Intuitive, Doctor of Natural Medicine, and your go-to guide for living your life naturally…More
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