Effects of Screen Time on Adults

May 9, 2024

The average U.S. adult will spend 44 years of their life looking at screens. This includes everything from working and learning to playing games and checking out social media. With so much time spent on screens, it's important to think about the effects of screen time on adults. 

Average Screen Time for Adults

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted our screen time. With lockdowns and social distancing measures in place, many of us turned to digital devices to stay connected with others and to entertain ourselves. This shift has caused an increase in the amount of time adults spend on various screens.

A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults revealed that people now spend a staggering total of 6,259 hours per year looking at a screen. Here’s a breakdown of how this time is distributed across different devices:

  • Televisions: About 4.5 hours per day

  • Laptops: Nearly 5 hours per day

  • Gaming devices: 3 hours and 12 minutes per day

  • Smartphones: 4 hours and 33 minutes per day 

When Does Screen Time Become Harmful for Adults?

It's important to know when screen time turns from a regular part of our daily routine into a potential problem. While using screens is a normal part of life, spending too much time on them can lead to issues like internet addiction. 

Internet addiction is when someone uses the internet so much that it interferes with their daily life, responsibilities, and personal relationships. This can happen when adults find themselves spending more time online than intended, or when they consistently choose screen activities over other important aspects of life.

There isn't a set number of hours that marks when screen use becomes harmful because it depends on how it affects each person's life. However, if you find that screen time is causing you to neglect your work, social life, or health, it might be time to reassess your habits.

Physical Effects of Too Much Screen Time

Spending too much time on screens can lead to a variety of physical health issues. One common problem is eye strain, which can cause discomfort, dryness, or blurred vision. Sitting in the same position for long hours often leads to back and neck pain due to poor posture. This is sometimes referred to as "tech neck." 

There's also the risk of disrupted sleep patterns, as the blue light from screens can make it harder to fall asleep. Lastly, a sedentary lifestyle, where you spend a lot of time sitting and not moving much, can lead to weight gain and associated health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

Psychological Symptoms of Too Much Screen Time

Too much screen time can also affect your mental health. Symptoms include feeling moody, unhappy, or anxious after long periods of screen use. Some people may experience a drop in their self-esteem, especially after spending a lot of time on social media, where the lives of others can appear more exciting or perfect. 

There's also the risk of becoming more isolated from real-world relationships, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. If you notice that your screen time is making you feel consistently sad, worried, or disconnected from those around you, it may be a sign to cut back.

Is There a Healthy Amount of Screen Time Recommended for Adults? 

Figuring out the right amount of screen time can be tricky, especially for adults who use digital devices for both work and leisure. Health experts generally recommend keeping recreational screen time to no more than two hours per day when at home. 

The reasoning behind this recommendation is that the time we often spend on screens for non-essential activities could be better used for physical activities, which boost our energy levels and overall health. Engaging in regular physical activity not only improves physical fitness but also enhances mental well-being, helping to reduce the stress and fatigue that can come from excessive screen use.

It's important to note that these guidelines are mainly for screen time that isn't related to work or necessary tasks like homework. Since many adults need to use screens extensively for their jobs, the focus should be on balancing this with enough physical activity and ensuring that leisure time isn't dominated by additional screen use.

Tips To Reduce Your Screen Time

Many people find it hard to cut back on their screen time. In fact, 41% of U.S. adults say managing how much time they spend on screens is a challenge. However, there are practical steps you can take to reduce your screen time:

  • Set Time Limits: Use apps that track how much time you spend on your devices and set limits for how long you can use them each day.

  • Create No-Screen Zones: Make certain areas of your home, like the bedroom or dining room, screen-free zones to help limit your exposure.

  • Establish Screen-Free Times: Designate times of the day, such as during meals or right before bed, as screen-free. This can help reduce your reliance on devices.

  • Turn Off Notifications: Disable notifications for apps that you don't need immediate updates from. This can decrease the urge to check your phone constantly.

  • Replace Screen Time with Other Activities: Find hobbies or activities you enjoy that don't involve screens, like reading a book, going for a walk, or cooking a meal.

  • Be Mindful and Set Goals: Be aware of how much time you're spending on screens and set goals to gradually reduce that time. Monitor your progress and adjust as needed.

If you need to use screens for a long period of time, remember to take breaks to protect your eyes. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away. The 20-20-20 rule can help reduce eye strain and improve focus. 

Balancing screen time is important for maintaining both your physical and mental health. While screens are an integral part of modern life, excessive use can lead to significant health issues. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with internet addiction, remember that help is available. Seeking support from professionals who specialize in addiction can provide the strategies and support needed to overcome these challenges. Resources such as counseling, support groups, and educational programs can offer strategies and support to help you reduce your screen time and improve your overall well-being.  

Don't wait to make a change. If you're concerned about your screen habits or those of a loved one, reach out for help today. The right support can make all the difference.

Sources: 

Alarming Average Screen Time Statistics (2024) - Exploding Topics 

Average U.S. Adult Will Spend Equivalent of 44 Years of Their Life Staring at Screens: Poll - People 

https://backlinko.com/screen-time-statistics - Backlinko 

Social Connectedness, Excessive Screen Time During COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Review of Current Evidence - Frontiers in Human Dynamics 

Voice Chat Apps and the Future of Digital Content - High Fidelity 

Computers, Digital Devices and Eye Strain - American Academy of Ophthalmology 

What Is Tech Neck and How to Prevent It - Health 

Blue light has a dark side - Harvard Health Publishing 

Increased Screen Time as a Cause of Declining Physical, Psychological Health, and Sleep Patterns: A Literary Review - Cureus 

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