The Negative Effects of Screen Time for Adults and Children

Electronics are a part of everyone’s life — but what are the negative effects of screen time for adults and children?

Electronics are a part of everyone’s life — but what are the negative effects of screen time for adults and children?

Screens are a part of everyone’s life these days. While there is growing evidence showing the negative effects of screen time on adults and children, your family can improve their health by cutting back on the amount of time spent in front of the screen. Learn the negative effects of prolonged screen time and tips to help limit electronics use.

The effects of screen time on your health

Whether the whole family sits around staring at their smartphones or you keep the TV on in the background, too much screen time can be harmful. Here are a few ways your health may be negatively affected by spending too much time in front of a screen.

  • Obesity. Too much time engaging in a sedentary activity, such as playing video games or watching TV, can be a risk factor for obesity. Heart health is also impacted and can lead to a higher risk of diabetes, increased blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • Sleep problems. The light emitted from electronic devices interferes with the brain’s sleep cycle and can prevent getting a good night’s sleep. To sleep more soundly, keep screens out of the bedroom and avoid them for at least an hour before you climb into bed.
  • Chronic neck and back pain. Too much screen time can lead to poor posture, causing chronic neck, shoulder and back pain. Instead, take breaks from sitting to walk around, stand or stretch. Make sure your chair provides ample back support and try to keep the device at eye level.
  • Depression and anxiety. All the time spent in front of screens can negatively affect your mental and emotional wellbeing. Experts suggest that higher screen time and depression could be connected along with an increase in suicidal behaviors and lower one’s ability to read emotions in general.

Additionally, a National Institutes of Health study found that children who spent more than two hours a day on electronic devices scored lower on thinking and language tests. Those with more than seven hours of screen time experienced thinning of the brain’s cortex, which is related to critical thinking and reasoning.

Tips to reduce screen time

Limiting screen time to just a few hours a day may not be realistic, but these tips can help slim you and your family’s screen time.

  • Model healthy electronic use. Parents are role models for their kids. The next time you binge-watch your favorite Netflix series, remember that you are setting an example for your children. Keeping the TV on in the background or scrolling through your phone when you have a spare minute may not be modeling the behavior you hope to see in your kids.
  • Set aside time to unplug. Choose a time for your whole family to unplug from the phone, TV and computer. When you all agree to put down your devices, it gives your family the chance to spend quality time together.
  • Use parental controls. There are tools you can use to filter or block unwanted content. You can even set daily screen time limits that can lock your children out of apps after they have reached a set amount of time.
  • Encourage other activities. These days it’s easy for kids to become reliant on electronics for entertainment. Instead, encourage them to get involved in activities that don’t require a screen like playing outside, reading a book or playing a board game.
  • Keep bedrooms screen-free. You may want to consider making it a rule that electronic devices are not allowed in the bedroom. This also includes tablets and other handheld devices that your kids may be tempted to use at night, which could interfere with their sleep.

So, what is the ideal amount of screen time? While it sounds like a simple question, the “just right” amount often depends on what type of screen a person is looking at and why they are looking at it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding screens for children younger than 18 to 24 months. Children over age 2 should be limited to 1 to 2 hours of screen time per day. Adults should also try to limit their screen time outside of work hours.

If you have questions about the negative effects of screen time for adults and children, find a nearby Valleywise Community Health Center or call 1-833-VLLYWSE to schedule an appointment.



About the Author

Aris Mosley, MD - Psychiatry

Aris Mosley, MD is a District Medical Group provider and Medical Director of the Valleywise Health First Episode Center. She is board certified in both adult psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry. Her goal when working with individuals that have a brain health disorder is to allow them to take an active role in their treatment and recovery through shared decision making.

Read more posts by Aris Mosley, MD  Browse all topics

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