Computers, tablets, smartphones, and gaming systems have revolutionized popular culture and the way people engage with one another. Devices also have transformed the way people live in their homes.
Cisco’s annual visual networking index forecast indicates there will be four networked devices and connections per person globally by 2020. In North America, there will be 13 networked devices and connections per person by that time. As more people are connected to tech than ever before, many wonder if there’s a healthy amount of time to spend on their devices?
“Screen time” is defined as the amount of time spent each day using devices with screens, such as TVs, gaming consoles, smartphones, and tablets. Although how much screen time people engage in is entirely up to them, there are health risks associated with excessive screen time.
People may not realize just how much screen time they engage in each day. Nielsen reports that American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to, or simply interacting with media, which is up from nine hours, 32 minutes just four years ago. Common Sense Media’s 2017 report shows American children age eight and under use screens for an average of two hours and 19 minutes per day. That time increases as kids age.
In terms of healthy screen time limits, the experts have weighed in.
The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that children under 18 months should avoid screen time, other than video chatting. Ages 18 months to two years can use high-quality programs or apps if adults participate with them. Children between the ages of two and five should limit daily screen time to an hour; age six and up should follow consistently imposed limits.
Doctors may be hesitant to prescribe screen limits for adults. But people can use certain health clues to determine if it’s time to cut back. If screens (and their blue light) are adversely affecting sleep, reducing screen time might be necessary to avoid negative side effects. Screen time should not come at the expense of physical activity, as that can contribute to obesity. People are urged to take frequent breaks from screens to mitigate potential eye strain and headaches.
The Department of Health Government of Western Australia recommends adults age 18 and older minimize time spent sitting or lying looking at screens, and to break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
People who routinely use screens for hours each day should weigh the benefits and detriments to the amount of time spent with devices and tailor their usage accordingly.