Just like alcohol, tobacco and drugs, if not managed carefully, screen time can become an addiction that can damage your health and relationships.
Screen Addiction happens when we use too much technology during our day. This can be watching too much TV, playing video games, constant scrolling through social media, watching YouTube videos or using other Smartphone Apps.
Research shows that pre-pandemic, people spent an average of 3 hrs 15 mins on their mobile devices per day. * With screen time ever increasing in our lives, it is important to recognise the signs of addiction and what steps can be taken to take back control of time spent online.
Time spent online can take up such a large part of a person’s waking hours, it is important that we understand how it can impact on a person’s mental health.
A loss of interest in other activities: Instead of wanting to read a book or go play sport, you just want to stay near your phone. Even if you are reading a book or having a conversation with someone, you find yourself constantly drawn back to your device.
A lack of control over screen use: Do you know the feeling? When you find yourself passively scrolling through your newsfeed knowing you intended to go to sleep hours ago. What holds you there? What keeps you endlessly clicking your way through that rabbit hole of information, posts and pictures?
It preoccupies your thoughts: Have you ever been in a meeting and found yourself sneakily looking at your phone? Or been on a plane and found yourself getting twitchy that you’re not able to check your new notifications? Perhaps you have arrived at a location to find yourself with no signal and your number one priority is to find out if there is Wi-Fi? Becoming preoccupied with our devices and phones can be a sign we are becoming too reliant of them.
Sometimes that passive scroll can bring us down. If you are having a day where you have been feeling a bit down in the dumps and lonely, you assume opening up your phone will spark some joy. Instead, you find yourself scrolling through the best bits of another person’s day. No one mentions the negative parts, the low points, the ‘breaks ups’, do they? It’s all their best bits, their highs and their ‘make ups’ that make the feed. But it can sometimes make us feel worse rather than better. That ‘hit’ we have been looking for, we haven’t found.
Comparison can sometimes make it feel as though everyone is leading a far more interesting and exciting life, can’t it? Friends being tagged into events that you weren’t invited to, or a holiday you can’t afford to be on. When your time online becomes about comparison rather than connection, perhaps it’s time to take a step back.
Our time online can impact us both physically and mentally. It can drain us of energy and make us feel lethargic and low. It can make us feel sleepy or irritable, emotional, and anxious. It’s important to think about how you feel prior to spending time online and then reassessing how you feel after a period spent online. If you do not feel the same or more positive afterwards, perhaps your time online needs to be re – evaluated.
Are you noticing issues with sleep?
Using your device last thing at night can affect sleep patterns. It prevents us having the ‘down time’ we need to relax before bed. Staying constantly connected and accessible to others can also leave us feeling drained and anxious. Access to your device in the night or first thing in the morning can also impact our sleep. Instead of allowing yourself time to rest or allowing your body to decide when it’s ready to wake, you are allowing your screen, and the contacts within it, to do that for you.
Do you feel anxious if you are without your digital devices, or without the ability to connect to social media?
How do you feel when you see ‘no service’ or ‘no Wi-Fi available’? If it makes you feel stressed or anxious, or even irritable, perhaps you need to take another look at why that is and what is causing that feeling.
If the answer to any of the above questions is yes or sound familiar to you then, maybe it is time to look at your use of technology and take some time out to reassess how you are using it, and what changes you need to put in place.
Like most things, there are positive and negatives to screen time. While we are concerned that too much screen time can negatively affect children and young people and lead to possible addiction, of course, there are benefits to using the Internet too. According to Internet Matters:
If you think your child might be addicted to watching YouTube videos or playing video games, here are some things to look out for:
Becoming someone with a screen addiction can have devastating effects. According to Family Life and Child Development specialist and Early Childhood Education consultant Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, a screen addiction may lead to insomnia, back pain, weight gain or loss, vision problems, headaches, anxiety, dishonesty, feelings of guilt, and loneliness.
Below are some suggestions on how you and your child can utilise your devices in a more positive way.
Children may not be honest to you about their time spent online to be allowed more and more access. Checking usage via the device itself can be a good way to gauge, in both cases, accurate usage time.
Stepping back and looking at research, the impact of screen time on children’s well-being is still being debated, however, more and more experts suggest that we should focus more on what children are doing online and less on how long they are online (Internet Matters).