Sunday, March 3, 2024

Why too much screen time takes a toll on your health


LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – When we think of addiction, we think of alcohol or drugs. Dr. Logan Winkelman, Ph.D., is the Program Director for Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She says the world is faced with another real threat, a growing addiction to screen time.

She says, “That could be like eyestrain, that can be neck strain headaches, but one of the number one physical ailments is sleep disturbance.”

Dr. Winkelman says if we’re scrolling through our phone in bed before sleep, that keeps our mind active when it’s trying to wind down. Another concern is the blue light. She explains, “Blue light actually interferes with our melatonin. So melatonin is the hormone that allows us to feel sleepy and stay asleep. So if the blue light is interfering with that melatonin production, it can actually physiologically affect your ability to sleep.”

Since kids tend to copy what they see in their parents. she says it’s worth remembering that when adults are constantly on their iPhone or tablets, kids will learn to make the same habits. And kids have even more to lose because they are young and still developing.

She says, “They’ll learn to prioritize technology over other activities or even relationships. And this can impact their development, it can impact their social skills, it can impact their attention span.” Also, excessive screen time can lead to anxiety and depression.

So how much screen time is ok?

Until age 2, she says it’s recommended that kids get no more than one hour of screen time a day.

That can bump up to 2 hours a day for kids between age 2 and 5.

After age 6, she says it’s ideal to limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day, even among adults.

Of course, we know that’s not possible if you’re in front of a computer all day at work…then drive with a digital screen in your car… and relax at home watching tv at night.

So, Dr. Winkelman offers these recommendations. “Take intentional breaks from technology and do non screen activities such as exercise, cooking a meal, reading a book, a physical book, not a Kindle. Then limit yourself especially around bedtime. Our sleep rhythm affects so much of our biology. And so, if we’re mindlessly scrolling for hours on end, when we get home, it’s really affecting our health.”

One other suggestion, she says don’t scroll through your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning. Instead, find some other routine to start your day… brush your teeth, eat breakfast, read something, exercise, establish some other daily routine before you turn to your devices.

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