Americans are conjoined to their screens, unable to look away, according to a recent Nielsen Company report.
The report found that U.S. adults spend about 10 hours and 39 minutes a day staring at their phones, tablets, computers, and other multimedia devices every single day. Those hours of media entertainment add up to over 50 hours a week that are taking us away from our hobbies and families that require us to look up from our screens.
As psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle noted in her book “Alone Together,” our technology devices have changed the way we relate to one another, and not always in a good way. In her book, she details case studies of distracted people who are physically present but “mentally elsewhere.”
Besides limiting our social lives, screen time can hurt our health. The inactive behavior of staring at our screens has been linked to obesity risks by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We should be making time each day to move around, untethered by our screens, so that we can stay active and present in our lives and the lives of those we care about.
But for those of us whose jobs require us to look at screens all day, what can we do?
How to limit your screen time
When we get enthralled by the delights of a screen, our outside needs fade away and our eyes and spine suffer for this. Staring at a screen for too long can be a major strain on our eyes. Ophthalmologists recommend the 20-20-20 exercise to alleviate some of this stress. Every 20 minutes you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Changing our long-term addiction to clicking, scrolling and staring takes more work because these devices are engineered to keep us on them for as long as possible. The numbers tell the story: We check our phones 150 times a day. The average smartphone user spends about two hours and 15 minutes a day on apps, which adds up to about a month a year. Too much of the time, we’re looking at social media that can wait. You can turn your social media against itself by using apps to stop you from using apps. Overall, limiting your screen time requires becoming mindful of these habits and outlining rules for yourself, such as no phones at the dinner table and no laptop after midnight.
Taking your technology devices into your bedroom can also be making it harder for you to fall asleep. Smartphone lights emit a blue light that suppresses our melatonin, disrupts our sleep schedule and makes our brains think it’s morning. So when you’re texting and tapping your screens at night, recognize that you’re limiting the amount of restorative REM sleep you’re going to wake up with.
Thank you for using your precious screen time to read this article! Now, step away from the blue light.
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