Are you having too much screen time?


Parents often limit their children’s screen time. But what about the big kids? Do you spend too much time in front of screens? And if you do, what of it?Let’s get some perspective
How much time do you spend looking at screens? We can probably refine it even more. How much of your free time do you spend on screen? If you look at the use of smart phones and tablets, it seems that this has increased exponentially in the last ten years.

For me personally, in the last two years,  I have spent loads more time looking at screens than ever before. The effect on me is that I feel disinclined to look at a screen when I come home. My brain sometimes feels “fried” – but that is probably more about the content of my recent jobs in administration, rather then anything else. I feel like it “kills” my creativity … but there is no evidence that supports that.

The purpose behind your screen time
There are many different purposes for the use of screen time. Typically people are engaged through the use of apps.  There are those with positive ramifications for the user. They include apps for relaxation, exercise, weather, reading, education and health. The negative outcomes are derived from apps focused on dating, social networking, gaming, entertainment, news and web browsing. Unfortunately, it seems that people spend three times as much time on the negative apps as the positive ones.

What is the impact of negative screen time?
One researcher reports that spending time on apps that don’t make us happy also suppresses the “natural” stopping cues that exist in other means of information dissemination. Stopping cues are those moments when you realise it is time to move on to something different. These show up in more traditional media as things like the end of an episode – until the next one broadcast a week later. The end of an article or newspaper/magazine – when it is time to put it away and move on to something different. 

The difference is that today, there are no stopping cues with online information channels. The news feed rolls on. The media news is bottomless. You can just keep going. And, if there is a local issue, you can see its reports perpetuated across the globe with different agencies reporting on it across different time frames.

How does this impact on your home life?
There are rituals we all enter into – meals, family gatherings and social occasions. These are often the things we call “quality time”. Screen time can often impact on these.  People are often connected into their mobile devices. the result is people are distracted from the other person to person interactions in lieu of interacting with their mobiles instead. How often do smart phones interrupt these occasions? 

Perhaps you have rules about screen time at the dinner table – that is there aren’t any present. No TV. No mobiles or tablets. Just face to face time. Conversations and interactions of the human connection variety. Some people take this further. They put their phones on plane mode on the weekend. They enjoy the interactions with others and are happy to have time away from their devices.

Others don’t subscribe to this approach. Instead, they have their devices at hand 24/7. They respond to email at all hours. They sleep with their devices bedside. They allow interruptions into their personal time from calls and demands made from colleagues and clients. The impact? A destruction of home life? An unrealistic expectation about responsiveness? An eroding of quality relationships with people?

Positive impact of screens
There are many positive impacts of our technological advances of media and the communication facilitated by them. Global families are able to stay connected by skype, communicator and face time. Education entities bring learning and insights to people wherever they are through video and multimedia presentations. It connects people across distances and cultures. It brings educational experiences to many who would otherwise have been isolated from such learning. 

What is the answer?
As in all things balance is what is called for here. “All things in moderation” applies. We cannot ignore the opportunities offered through these technological advances, but we do need to balance our the good impacts with the potentially negative ones.

What is your answer?

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