Do you know how many hours per day you spend looking at a screen? Most people do not realize how many hours are spent reading, playing games, or texting on computers and smartphones. Then, add in television time — that part of your daily routine watching TV after dinner and before bedtime.
How much time does the average American spend using a screen device? A study of 11,000 RescueTime users revealed average daily smartphone use of 3 hours and 15 minutes per day. Another survey by eMarketer revealed average everyday use of 3 hours and 43 minutes on smartphone devices. That statistic does not include other devices, including game systems or home television.
It is hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone these days. And as technology becomes more complex, some of us are running our whole lives from smartphones, including smart cars and even smart homes—all connected through high-speed wi-fi.
While technology is meant to make our lives easier and complete tasks that keep us organized, screen time is wreaking havoc with our health. Limiting screen time for children is relatively common now among concerned parents, but adults should also consider limiting the use of technology daily.
In the past two decades, there have been many changes to the way we live. For example, the amount of screen time the average American consumes daily has risen significantly. Predominantly for children and adolescents, according to Jean Twenge, Ph.D., author of “iGen” and professor of psychology at San Diego State University.
In the book, Dr. Twenge stated: “More U.S. adolescents and young adults in the late 2010s, versus the mid-2000s, experienced serious psychological distress, major depression or suicidal thoughts, and more attempted suicide.”
A report released in October 2019 by a non-profit organization called “Common Sense Media” revealed some shocking statistics. According to the report “The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2019,” the average exposure to screen time is now 4 hours and 44 minutes per day. The number of hours per day seems high until you think about how many times you see a child, tween, or teen with a mobile device at home, while traveling, or at school.
And don’t forget mobile games and the use of home gaming systems like PlayStation or Xbox. Kids are glued to their screens. Many are connecting socially with their friends through game systems, which adds another layer of attraction for kids. Some experts say it is reaching “addiction-like” levels of behavior and use. We are imprinting children with behavior that could have long-term detrimental impacts on their health through these lifestyle habits.
One of the most cited studies was published by University College London (UCL). Psychologist Neza Stiglic, Ph.D., and Russel Viner, Ph.D. studied the impact of screen time on health problems. More than two hours per day of screen time was correlated with depressive symptoms. This correlated with higher caloric intake, poor dietary nutrition, and feelings of low-mood and self-esteem.
Monitoring your child’s screen time can be the first step to improving their physical and mental health. Limiting screen time for adolescents is important for healthy brain development and increasing daily physical activity. Nutrition can also effect your mental health.
Could you live a day without your smartphone? What about several days in a row, or a week? If you have ever lost your phone, you probably understand how reliant you are on your mobile device. It contains everything from your calendar appointments to contact information for personal or business use.
Our smartphones contain apps that we use daily and cannot seem to live without. And don’t forget social media networks. What is the point of making a great meal at home if you can’t spend ten minutes to Instagram a perfect picture? Some people even take their smartphones with them to bed to read or swipe-left through news items and social media before going to sleep.
Do you know someone who has decided to shun social media? They may have realized early that excessive screen time had a negative impact on their health. Culturally, we think that someone who isn’t active on social media is anti-social. When in actuality, they may have a more meaningful and rich social life offline.
How much time does the average American spend on smartphones and other personal devices?
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In the latest Nielsen “Total Audience Report,” the amount of time spent watching television is still greater than smartphone use. Adult Americans over the age of 18 spend more than four hours per day streaming movies or watching TV. Adults over the age of 65 years average six hours per day of television screen time. Seniors are less likely to use home gaming devices like an Xbox and are less reliant on their smartphones for daily use.
You have your cup of coffee, and you sit down at your desk. Then you hear the alert. You just got a text. Another alert? An email or social media notification. Perhaps a calendar reminder for you to pick something up on the way home.
Setting alerts on your smartphone is, for some, a way of navigating the day without forgetting important things. Your smartphone is supposed to make your life easier. However, each alert’s cumulative impact over the course of a day causes a new kind of disability. It impairs our ability to focus.
Could you turn your phone off during business hours? If you have an office phone, why do you need to have your smartphone on too? Those alerts and interruptions can make it difficult to focus throughout the day. When you are trying to get a number of tasks done, that extra distraction can quickly elevate your stress levels.
Many people are familiar with cortisol and the “fight or flight” mechanisms in the human body. When you are stressed, the brain triggers a release of cortisol, the stress hormone. It has many functions; think of it as a nitro boost of fuel in your body. Cortisol can help you process thoughts more quickly, move faster, and stay alert. It’s your body’s response to an emotion it thinks is caused by imminent danger.
Overuse of smartphones triggers the brain to release cortisol, according to many clinical studies. Dr. Robert Lustig is the author of “The Hacking of the American Mind.” The book profoundly explores our increasing addiction to smartphone use to ‘soothe anxiety.’ Where in actuality, the smartphone triggers chronically elevated cortisol levels.
Diseases like depression, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular risks like heart attack, dementia, and stroke share one common precursor: chronic stress.
This may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to train yourself out of excessive screen time may be a smartphone app. There are a variety of different iOS and Android apps that can help you monitor your tech time or train yourself into better smartphone habits.
RealizD is an app that is available for all smartphone devices. The app first tracks your smartphone usage over time. This helps determine a personal algorithm of the frequency of use. After the data is collected, RealizD helps people establish a goal and daily limit for smartphone use. You can set hours where your smartphone is not available and train yourself into less screen time per day.
Do not worry, telephone calls will still come through, but you can program periods of rest from your phone. Time away from your phone may help you to schedule non-screen activities, like exercise, chores around the house, or reading a good book.
Space is a fun and gamified way to ‘take back your time’ away from a smartphone. There are different levels of awards in the app. It is free to try (with some in-app purchases for other features). The app promises to help users find their phone/life balance.
Try using one of these apps to really get a sense of how much time you are using your smartphone. Knowing how many hours of the day you are on your phone can be a shocking realization. It might just be the motivation you need to start reducing your screen time. Gradually reducing screen time opens up the possibility to conquer hobbies, goals and plans that you have somehow lost time for. It may also help improve your relationships, fitness level and sleep schedule. It all starts with awareness and moderation.
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