There’s been a lot of research into the impact of time spent online over the past several years. Most focuses on children, since they’re the ones with the developing brains that tend to be more vulnerable to outside influence. Also, because children’s lifestyles are so much different from adults’. For most children, there’s very little need to be in front of a screen. Adults, on the other hand, particularly those who work or study, often find themselves in front of a computer screen for hours on end out of necessity. Show me an office job that doesn’t require a computer and I’ll show you the time machine you just walked through.
There doesn’t seem to be an official recommendation for online or screen time for adults. For children it’s generally no screen time under 2 years of age, and no more than 2 hours for older children and teens. As adults, we are, technically, over the age of 2. So we should read that as a recommendation to limit ourselves to… as little as possible.
Not quite the hard and fast rule we were hoping for. Or one you could take to your boss to argue for longer break times.
But since we do spend so much time online out of necessity, it’s a good idea to try to limit how much of our free time we spend online or otherwise staring at a screen. Below are 3 reasons why, and 3 ways how:
3 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD LIMIT YOUR SCREEN-TIME
1. For your mental & physical health
Recent research from Bustle looked at the impact of screen time on your body. What they found was intriguing… and pretty scary. They found that too much time staring at a screen can cause anything from increased cravings, to metabolic syndrome, to earlier death, even!
We’ve also all heard about the risks of a sedentary lifestyle and let’s face it. If you’re glued to your phone, you’re probably not out for a hike at the same time. All that sitting time can have serious effects on your physical health and well-being.
And it isn’t just our physical well-being that’s impacted. Studies also show negative impacts to our mental health with social media being linked to decreased self-esteem and increased anxiety.
2. To set a good example for your kids
Since so much of the research focuses on children, we know that too much online time can have a variety of negative impacts on them both in the short and long term. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably already read quite a bit about it. You’ve probably also taken steps to limit your children’s screen time and time online.
Has one of those steps been to limit your own? If your children see you constantly glued to your phone or laptop screen, that will seem like the norm to them. On the other hand, if they see you regularly engaged in non-online activities like sports, reading, cooking, or any number of hobbies or activities, that will be their norm and they will be more likely to engage in non-online activities themselves. Even better, look for activities you can do with your kids 🙂
3. For better sleep
How often do you feel like you could do with a really good night’s sleep? You could probably do with several nights of good sleep.
Lay off the screens and you might start getting them!
Online time negatively affects your sleep in two ways. The first is basically over-stimulation. If you’re responding to work emails at 11PM, your brain is all fired up in work mode, thinking about those three emails and all the to-do’s associated with them, instead of relaxing into sleep mode.
The second is from the type of light generated by screens – TVs, phones and computers. That light actually disrupts your body’s production of melatonin. The sleep hormone!
Try going a full week without looking at any screens the hour before you go to bed. You just might get that sleep you’re looking for!
3 WAYS TO CUT YOUR SCREEN-TIME
1. Do something else!
Probably the easiest and most effective way to cut your online time is to replace it with something you enjoy even more.
Push yourself to try new things, or to get back into something you used to enjoy, but gave up along the way.
If you’re trying to break a family habit, look for activities the whole family can enjoy. Make new traditions. Sign your kids up for a sport and yourself up as a volunteer coach. Explore one new thing in your city every weekend. Get a dog. Get bikes. Go for walks. Do something that doesn’t include a screen. You might even try leaving the phones at home.
2. Set up a tech drop spot in your house.
Set designated offline, screen-free times and designate a drop spot for phones. During offline times, have everyone in the house put their phones in the drop spot.
It’s easy to just not turn on the TV, or not open your laptop, but if your phone is in your pocket or anywhere within reach, it can be almost like a reflex to just take a quick peek.
Choose a spot out of reach, or even something closed like a cupboard or a box with a lid.
3. Find tools & tricks that take the anxiety out of going offline.
Of course, there’s the Offline app that you can use to make sure people trying to contact you get a quick reply that you’re taking some offline time and will be back soon. That can take a lot of the anxiety away.
You might find the buzzing of your phone makes you anxious. So turn it off completely when you want some offline time.
Shut down your laptop instead of just closing it or letting it sleep.
Remind yourself that your network isn’t going anywhere. Everything will be there waiting for you when you’re ready to reconnect.
Lean on each other for support. If you’re breaking the habit as a family, rely on each other to provide distractions and support, especially at the beginning.
Since there are no solid rules about how much online time is too much, you need to look at your general enjoyment of life as an indicator of whether or not you’re in ‘too much’ territory. If you regularly feel burnt out, or like you’re not enjoying your family or your free time as much as you should, that’s a good indicator that’s it time to look up from your phone.
You owe it to yourself and your family!