We have all witnessed the impact of too much screen time on our own mood and on our children. We have heard about the importance of limiting our screen time, but often times we haven’t seen the specifics of what screen time limitations should look like or the detrimental effects of too much screen time. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time that we have all been required to be on our screens more than normal (and may have streamed an extra show or seven for ourselves or our children) the need for a screen detox is inevitable. It may be helpful to explore together just what our screen hygiene looks like and how we can change it to increase digital wellness.
Averaging 7.5 hours of screen time per day, 8 to 18 year olds often suffer many difficulties due to steep overuse of screens. The developmental impact appears to be most determined not by what screens are doing to alter brain development, but rather by what we are missing when we spend our time engulfed in the sea of media. Sequestered in our homes, we neglect the rich benefits of outdoor green space which calms our nervous system and strengthens our attention span. The constant hue of blue light short-circuits our circadian rhythm as we shield ourselves from the sun. Exercise and its many benefits are traded for the slothful rhythm of autoplay, creating fertile ground for anxiety, insomnia, depression, and hyperactivity. Emotional regulation, conflict resolution, and our ability to understand cause and effect are all stunted when we and our children don’t enjoy the fruits of imaginative, free play and movement. Empathy, connection, and love are hampered when we substitute media for real embrace and eye to eye connection.
In the midst of a global pandemic, a temporary increase in screen time is to be expected. For many of us, it’s the only way we have made it through the day with any semblance of sanity! But however alluring the call to the sea of screens, we must return to the shore of digital wellness. Unfortunately, we can often feel lost at sea, with no way to find our way back. So what can we do? Here are some helpful guidelines to get us started, as well as some additional resources to promote digital wellness in our homes:
- Limit screen time for adults and children in the home.
- Curate our use of media, opting only for those things we enjoy and avoiding pointless browsing/binge watching.
- Assign times and spaces that screens are and are not allowed (ex: no screens at dinnertime and after 9:00pm or no screens or phones in bedrooms).
- Use software to protect children from inappropriate material.
- Model healthy screen usage for your children.
- Decrease screen time slowly as you work toward healthier limitations
- Consider a 24 hour “screen sabbath” once per week, when screens are off-limits.
Detoxing from our screen dependence will not be fun. But it is necessary if we are to enjoy and fully embrace the life, real life, that’s right in front of us.
Tiffany Raley, M.A.
Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018, May 1). Retrieved May 17, 2020, from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Children-and-Media-Tips.aspx
Infographics – Screen Time vs. Lean Time. (2018, January 29). Retrieved May 17, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.html