We often hear that kids these days are spending too much time looking at screens. But the problem isn’t limited to our children.
Adults are spending too much time staring at their screens each day too.
Technology offers many benefits. We have access to almost anything in the world, right in the palm of our hands.
But humans weren’t meant to spend their lives glued to a screen. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and too much screen time.
So, how much screen time is too much? There comes a point where the risk of tech overload outweighs the benefits of technology.
Keep reading while we answer that question and more.
How Much Time Are We Spending on Screens?
According to this Neilsen study, American adults spend 11 hours a day using media. This is almost half of each day of their lives.
Most of this is done using screens. Teens are spending slightly less time using media, with the average recreational teen clocking in at 9 hours. However, this doesn’t account for screen time for school or homework purposes.
This same study found that kids aged 8-12 spend 6 hours per day consuming media.
We often see the most concern with regard to young children. So just how much time are young kids spending looking at screens? According to this study, kids 2-5 years old spend 32 hours per week on screen time.
There are a couple of notable issues with research on screen time. For one, studies rely on respondents to self-report.
This method, while the only practical one for this type of study, is notoriously unreliable. People often have trouble remembering what they ate for breakfast that day, let alone exactly how much time they spend using various types of screens.
The other issues? Screen time has a tendency to be double-counted in these types of studies. For example, respondents often count the time they spent using more than one screen separately.
If they watch tv while using their phone or tablet, these hours are often counted twice. This can lead to deceivingly high study results. Regardless, it’s obvious that we are spending a lot of time looking at screens.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much?
The answer – it depends. The truth is, it’s hard to say how much is too much.
How do we tell when someone is spending too much time in front of a screen? We are doing research and learning more about the negative effects of too much screen time, especially when it comes to children.
Too much screen time can lead to changes in the brain, obesity, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, reduced happiness, poor grades, poor satisfaction with friendships, and reduced quantity and quality of sleep. Addictions to screens can cause poor decision making.
When it comes to determining where the limit lies, many different factors come into play. Humans are complex creatures and no two of us are exactly the same.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that influence how screen time affects us on an individual level.
Who Are You?
The characteristics of you as a person will influence how much screen time you can handle. Your personality, age, and sex/gender will all affect how screen time affects you. It may be affecting your real-life relationships and your quality of life.
The Type of Media You’re Consuming
The type of media you’re consuming will influence how much of it you can handle.
For example, are you using social media, playing video games, reading blogs, watching Youtube tutorials, or binge-watching Netflix?
What are the characteristics of the media you’re looking at? Is it violent? Pornographic?
Certain types of media are more healthy than others.
How You’re Using the Media
The context in which you’re consuming the media plays a part in the effect it has on you.
Are you spending too much time playing video games or watching tv alone? Or are you socializing with friends in real life while playing video games?
How immersive is the format of media you’re using? Passively using your cellphone is less consuming than using a VR headset, for example.
Finally, are you consuming or creating the media? You’ll gain much more from watching informative content and creating your own than watching mind-numbing content.
Timing is Important
How much time you spend in front of a screen is one of the most important variables to consider. However, not all time is equal because the context we discussed above matters.
Consider how much time you’re spending looking at a screen in addition to what you’re looking at. For example, screen time used for work or schoolwork may be unavoidable.
When it comes to things like checking your phone, the frequency may be the most insightful factor. How many times a day are you checking your phone? Is it becoming a problem?
Are you using media at appropriate times? For example, are you texting friends before class or during class? Are you using your phone while relaxing at home or while driving down the road?
Are your electronics causing you to lose sleep?
Limiting Screen Time
As you can see, it’s impossible to give an answer to the question, “How much screen time is too much?” that applies to each individual.
Humans and life itself are too complicated for a one size fits all approach. What we do know is that too much screen time for you can lead to negative physical, emotional, and mental effects.
Learning how to balance the benefits of technology with the drawbacks and using screens mindfully is the key to success.
If you find your screentime is affecting your mental health, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Contact us today to learn more about how therapy can help you find balance again.