There have been numerous technological advancements that have impacted the culture over the last 20 years. Some of these advancements have helped us manage our time more effectively and eliminate a lot of hassles. For example, we can all probably agree that using Google Maps is way easier than pulling out our handheld map from the storage compartment on the passenger’s side of the car. Work is also a lot less stressful when we can receive a response via email in a few minutes, rather than wait a few days for a return phone call.
Yes; technology has improved our lives in many ways, but it also comes with drawbacks. Increased screen time has wreaked havoc on our mental health, whether we are scrolling through Instagram or checking the news for the 20th time that day. So, what is the impact of high screen time on our mental health, and how can we reduce it without giving up our devices entirely? Here is what we know.
Impact of Screen Time on Mental Health
What exactly is considered “high screen time?” While everyone is different, high screen time is characterized by an obsessive, excessive need to be utilizing digital devices and platforms. If you find yourself running to unlock your phone when you are bored, anxious, or depressed, you may struggle with high screen time. If you struggle to reduce the amount of time on your device or feel highly anxious if you are without your phone, you are probably someone who struggles with high device usage.
High screen time is bad for everyone, but particularly for teens. Research can link poor mental health to teens who spend more than 2 hours per day online. Much of this impact is due to one’s social media participation, as social media is ripe for bullying and unrealistic narratives that harm self-esteem. Girls have higher incidents of anxiety and depression from high screen time than boys.
Adults also suffer from poor mental health issues due to high screen time. Looking at any type of screen for more than 3 hours per day makes it 6 times likelier to suffer from anxiety, depression, or a pervasive low mood. It can also worsen personal relationships, hurt one’s productivity, and increasing sedentary behavior. Consequently, an adult’s depression and anxiety can worsen.
Tips to Reduce Screen Time
Here are some top tips to reduce your screen time:
Talk to Loved Ones – Be honest with your family and friends about your problem. They can help hold you accountable and encourage you. Otherwise, you are forced to confront the problem alone, which will be much less effective. Everyone needs support.
Track Screen Time – Most phones allow you to track how long you are spending on each app or online. Figure out which platforms you tend to abuse and set a time limit to spend on each one per day. Set an alarm if you need to.
Create Healthier Habits – It’s harder to set down your phone if you have nothing else to replace it with. Find some hobbies or healthier habits that you can run to whenever you feel the need to go online.
Set Up Reminders – Put a sticky note on your phone that reminds you of your problem. You will be forced to see the note every time you mindlessly pick it up.
Try a Device-Free Day – Let everyone know that you are going without your device for a certain day during the week. Encourage your family to participate. Go outside, and notice what’s in front of you. Plan fun activities with the family for that day.
Journal – Journaling can be very therapeutic when you are trying to break a bad habit. Write down how you did each day and note when it was most difficult to abstain from your device. This will help you discern certain patterns about when you tend to reach for a distraction.
Seek Help – Abusing your phone or any substance is a sign that there is an underlying problem. You may suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness, or depression. Talk to a therapist who can help you manage your screen time and replace devices with healthier habits.
Do you struggle with high screen time, anxiety, or depression? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.