How Much Screen Time Is Too Much for Adults & Side Effects

In this era of smartphones, tablets, TVs and gaming consoles, screen time have become woven into the fabric of our lives, from work calls to school assignments, to social connection to endless entertainment. But with this constant digital presence comes a growing concern: how much screen time is too much for adults?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers age-specific recommendations for screen time for children in this order;

No screen time for children under 18 months: This crucial period is for developing foundational skills like language, social interaction, and physical exploration.

Limited screen time for toddlers (18-24 months): Up to one hour per day of high-quality programming, co-viewed with a caregiver.

One hour per day for preschoolers (2-5 years): Prioritize educational content and limit non-educational screen time.

Consistent limits for older children (6 and above): Encourage a diverse range of activities and set clear boundaries for screen time, keeping in mind individual needs and family values.

But when it comes to adult screen time, there is no universally agreed-upon amount of screen time that is too much for adults. However, some experts suggest that adults should limit their screen time outside of work to less than two hours per day.

According to CNN report and People report, the average screen time for adults in the United States was 11 hours per day before the pandemic, which increased to 19 hours per day during lockdown.

Prolonged screen time can lead to negative effects such as reduced physical activity levels, impaired sleep, and worsened mental health, Sound Health and Lasting Wealth will buttress this as we go along.

While there are no specific guidelines, it is important for adults to be mindful of their screen time and strive for a balance between screen use and other activities to support their well-being.

ALSO READ: Powerful Pre-Sleep Rituals: 5 Things to Do at Night for a Healthy Morning

Side Effects of Screen Time

Mental Health:

  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety: Several studies have found a link between increased screen time and higher rates of depression and anxiety symptoms in adults. For example, a 2019 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that adults who spent more than two hours per day on social media had a 27% higher risk of depression.
  • Lower sleep quality: The blue light emitted from screens can disrupt sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can lead to daytime fatigue, irritability, and mood swings. A 2023 study published in the Nature Journal found that adults who spent more time on screen-based devices before bed had lower sleep quality and shorter sleep duration.
  • Attention and cognitive function: Excessive screen time may be associated with decreased attention span, difficulty concentrating, and impaired memory. A 2021 study found that people who spent more time on social media had poorer attention spans and working memory than those who spent less time.

Physical Health:

  • Increased risk of obesity and related health problems: Spending too much time sitting and watching screens can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. A 2022 study found that adults who spent more than four hours per day watching television had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Muscle and bone problems: Prolonged screen time can lead to muscle weakness, poor posture, and pain in the neck, shoulders, and back, study. A 2022 report published in the journal Ergonomics found that office workers who spent more time sitting in front of a computer had higher levels of neck pain and discomfort.
  • Eye strain and headaches: Staring at screens for long periods can cause eye strain, headaches, and dry eyes. A 2018 study found that adults who spent more than six hours per day on screen-based devices had a higher risk of experiencing eye strain symptoms.

Relationship problems:

  • Decreased quality of interpersonal relationships: Spending too much time on screens can reduce the amount of time you spend interacting with family and friends, which can lead to social isolation and decreased relationship satisfaction. A study discovered that couples who spent more time using their phones during meals had lower relationship quality.

ALSO READ: 3 Things to Do to Make Your Bedroom a Relaxing Sleep Haven

How to Create a Screen Time Schedule for Adults

To create a screen time schedule for adults, consider the following tips and features available on various devices:

Use Built-in Screen Time Tracking Features: Many devices, such as iPhones, have built-in screen time tracking features that allow users to monitor their daily and weekly screen time.

Set Limits and Downtime: Utilize features like “App Limits” and “Downtime” to schedule specific times for screen-free activities, such as meals or before bedtime.

Leverage Technology: Use technology to set alarms and reminders for taking breaks and stepping away from screens.

Designate Screen-Free Times: Establish specific times during the day for screen-free activities, such as outdoor breaks or meals without screens.

Track and Adjust: Monitor your screen time and make adjustments to your schedule based on your usage patterns and personal preferences.

Striking Balance

It’s important to remember that technology is a tool, and like any tool, it’s all about using it responsibly. We can mitigate the negative side effects and cultivate a healthier relationship with screens by:

  • Setting Boundaries: Schedule screen-free times, like during meals, before bed, and social outings. Imagine carving out sacred spaces in your day where screens are off-limits, allowing you to truly disconnect and recharge.

  • Choosing Quality over Quantity: Prioritize educational, enriching content over mindless scrolling. Seek out documentaries, online courses, or engaging podcasts that stimulate your mind and broaden your horizons.

  • Move Your Body: Take breaks to stretch, walk, or do some light exercise every hour. Get your blood pumping and your body moving to counteract the sedentary nature of screen time.

  • Prioritize Real-World Connection: Make time for face-to-face interactions with friends and family. Savor the warmth of a shared meal, the laughter of a shared joke, and the intimacy of a genuine conversation.

  • Disconnect to Reconnect: Turn off notifications, silence your phone, and create screen-free zones in your home. Give yourself the gift of uninterrupted time and mental space to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones.

Note: This article is written based on scientific evidence found by the team. Sources are duly referenced with parameters hyperlinked to source websites and are clickable for reference.

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