Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, screens were an issue for most of us. Whether it be the phone, an iPad, a Chromebook, gaming devices, computer, or a television, screens are ubiquitous in modern society. Now that we have been in full “stay-at-home” protocol for over two months, screen time is likely increasing — especially thanks to online classes. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average time spent looking at a screen is between 7 and ten hours for Americans.
This week’s lockdown challenge is again simple, but not easy: cut your screen time by at least 25 percent. There are a nuber of benefits to doing this, including:
- Helps prevent headaches: According to a 2015 study, the more time children ages 10 and up spent looking at screens, the more likely they were to get migraines. The sudy also showed increases in lower back and shoulder pain. The same results have been found in adults as well.
- It can improve sleep and overall health: In 2014, Iowa State professor Dr. Douglas Gentile studied a reduction of screen time and its effects on sleep, grades, body mass index (BMI), and aggression. The finding? Cutting back even a little bit (along with knowing and talking about what your child is watching) can have long-term positive effects in all areas.
- It can reduce strain on your eyes: Staring at a screen can cause what is known as computer vision syndrome — a term used to describe eye issues which result from looking at a computer or smartphone screen.
“It’s most prevalent with computers, and typically occurs when looking at a screen at arm’s length or closer,” says Dr. Matthew Gardiner, an ophthalmologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Experts suggest a 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- It can increase your focus. Even short breaks can increase productivity according to a 2010 study. This is another spot where the 20-20-20 rule comes into play.
So what can you do instead of looking at screens?
- Go outside! Enjoy nature, take a hike or walk, work in the yard, or just play a game. You will get some much needed Vitamin D, get some natural movement in, and have fun!
- Play a game: Cribbage, trivia, chess, checkers — anything that isn’t on a screen. Another benefit is studies show playing games can help improve brain functioning as well.
- Exercise: Do 50 jumping jacks, 40 squats, 30 sitsups, 20 pushups, and 10 burpees. It will get the blood moving and help with any muscle stiffness. Start with the jumping jacks or other dynamic warm-up movement.
- Start a garden: Get outside with vegetables, fruits, or flowers. Again, it gets you outside and moving — and studies show those who have gardens of any type are happier and healthier.
How do you find out your current screen time? It’s pretty easy on an iPhone:
- Go to Battery
- Scroll down and it will tell you screen time on
- Just below that, it will tell you the percentage of battery use on each app.
- If you clock on “Show Activity”, it will switch to time spent on each app. It will be clear that you (and me, and everyone) spends way too much time on the web and social media
- Above the graph, you can also toggle between the last 24 hours and the last 10 days. Find the average for the last 10 days (for example, 6 hours). Convert that to minutes (360 minutes), and multiply by .75 (270). Your goal would be to cut to 270 minutes, or 4 hours and 30 minutes