We all spend too much time around screens. Whether it’s our TVs, phones, or computers, they’re all having an effect on us… But they may be effects that we haven’t noticed, or that we haven’t heard of yet.
If you’ve ever wondered things like: What are the effects of too much screen time? How much is too much? Or how can I reduce the time I’m spending in front of one of the above? We’re happy to help with the evidence-supported answers.
Effects of Too Much Screen Time
There are a number of negative effects that come from spending too much time gazing absent-mindedly into our screens. Ranging through almost every body-system we have, the effects aren’t small either!
Increased Risk of Obesity
Of course, there’s clear evidence that those with the most screen time (regardless of targeted physical activity levels) have a higher risk of developing obesity. In fact, a 2010 study of over 90,000 individuals found that those with the highest screen times had almost a 2-times greater risk of developing obesity when compared to those with the least. 
Blue light exposure from screens closer to bedtime can dysregulate our normal sleep cycles and negatively affects our sleep quality. When we’re exposed to blue light later in the day, it prevents our body from producing melatonin, which is the driving hormone behind sleep. 
Immune System Weakness
When we don’t get proper sleep, it tends to reduce our immune function making us more vulnerable to illness and infection; and could indirectly increase the risk of developing cancer. 
Some studies have shown that children who get more than 3 hours of screen time daily have suppressed cortisol levels, which could lead to a hampered ability to deal with stressful situations. 
A 2010 study found that adolescents who got more than 2 hours per day of screen time had elevated insulin levels. This put them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. 
Excessive time in front of screens can lead to eye-fatigue, impaired visual focus, visual acuity, and an inability to concentrate. It’s important to take frequent breaks and to ensure the lighting in the room is adequate. 
Many people tend to relax their posture and hunch the head, shoulders, neck, and spine (especially when using a cell phone or tablet). This can lead to chronic joint pain, chronic poor posture, and a loss of flexibility in these joints. It’s important to have a posture-positive set up when using any screen-based devices.
How Much Is Too Much?
“Too Much” is something that’s going to be different for everyone. There are no hard lines here. It’s important, with how prevalent these devices are in today’s society, that we’re well-versed on the risks and the many possible negative-outcomes that can come from overuse.
Many studies begin to see negative health effects after 2 hours-a-day of continuous use. But these slowly ramp up to the point that after 6 hours the negative effects seem to level out and are similar to those of even longer times. [1,2]
In conclusion, it’s best to limit your screen time as much as possible, but in modern society it’s near-impossible to avoid. It’s up to you to determine how much time you need, and what is too much.
How Can We Reduce Our Screen Time?
There are many options when it comes to reducing the exposure to screens, or mitigating some of the negative effects that come from high exposure, for you and for those around you. Some of these are:
-Talk to your close friends and family and explain the benefits of reducing their screen time. Having a tight-knit group that follows the same healthy rules can help with success.
-Set screen time limits for your household.
-Log your screen time and active time and compare the two. This can be a motivating factor to help reduce screen time.
-Understand that the negative effects go beyond just the time you’re spending as a sedentary individual. Seeing ads for unhealthy foods and drinks can make leading a healthy lifestyle even more difficult than it normally is.
-Create screen free bedrooms, as before bed can be the most common time to mindlessly use your devices. Bedrooms are for sleeping, and that’s it.
-Provide alternatives to screens. Picking up a hobby, finding a good book, or even spending more time outside daily are great options.
-Meal times should be screen-free times to spend with family and friends. Try playing games such as when you’re out for food, the first person to use their phone has to pay for the group.
In the end, it’s up to you. But, as in all things, I hope that you’ll make the attempt to improve your help and reduce your screen time.
Good luck on your journey to improved health!
1. Banks E, et al. Screen-time, obesity, ageing and disability: findings from 91 266 participants in the 45 and up study. Public Health Nutrition. 2010; 14(1): 34-43. doi:10.1017/S1368980010000674
2. Netivei Reshet. The effects of screen time on health. Netivei Reshet. https://www.netivei-reshet.org/en/node/76 Published Unknown. Accessed July 11, 2019.
3. Lets Move. Reduce screen time and get active. Lets Move. https://letsmove.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/reduce-screen-time-and-get-active Published Unknown. Accessed July 11, 2019.