Why Behavioral Change Is Necessary to Lower Screen Time in Adults


Grown-ups generally disapprove of kids spending too much time staring at screens. Decades before computers were a household fixture, parents would discourage their children from watching too much TV. We instinctively feel that it’s not right. Kids ought to be running around outdoors or playing with real toys.

Yet we often turn a blind eye towards our proclivity for screen time as adults. And it has the same potential to incur harmful long-term effects. You might not realize your dry eyes are linked to excessive screen time until you go for a consult at an MGD treatment center.

If adults are in charge of monitoring their kids’ screen time, who’s going to police them in turn? The situation can get complicated, and the solution isn’t as simple as some might think.

A complicated problem

Many studies have been undertaken to explore the effects of screen time on people. For adults, the research indicates that we log an average of 11 hours each day across all devices. It can be an alarming number, but not unbelievable, considering that modern lifestyles normally have us carrying and checking our phones all day, no matter where we go.

And in turn, the adverse impact of screen time on adults can manifest in many ways. Aside from headaches and eye strain, we lose sleep or suffer a lower quality of restfulness. Back and neck pains and weight gain are commonly associated with the sedentary lifestyle that typically goes with spending so much time in front of devices.

But solving the problem is not as simple as committing to reduce your screen time. For starters, there are limitations to the research and how it can be applied to any individual’s lifestyle. Not all screen time have an equal impact. It isn’t easy to quantify or define when you’ve exceeded the limit.

You might spend hours on your laptop, but if it’s work-related, the impact might not be as harmful as spending the same amount of time binge-watching a TV show. On the other hand, what if your work is stressing you out? In that case, you might be better off playing a video game or browsing your social media feed. At least then you’d be doing something that gives you joy.

Tracking your behavior

watching tv

Screen time itself is merely an aggregate measure of exposure, resulting from different behaviors. Each individual will have their own particular influences and activities underlying this exposure.

To find out when you’ve crossed the line, you need to increase your self-awareness and track your usage. Apple’s Screen Time app, and Digital Wellbeing on Android, both give you a native way to monitor this metric. For other devices, such as your TV or laptop, you’ll have to find different ways of tracking time.

But you also have to go beyond measuring this number. Be aware of the tell-tale signs that you’re going over a threshold. Listen to your body. Take note of how much sleep you’re getting each day. Pay attention to when you’re experiencing a productivity dip at work.

Work on habits

When you’ve determined that you’re spending an unhealthy amount of time in front of screens, some form of reduction will be necessary. Otherwise, it will be impossible to limit the harmful effects on vision or sleep quality.

But many of the associated problems with screen time stem from the underlying behaviors. This is where exercising your self-awareness helps. When you use social media, does it help you to reconnect with friends and family? Or are you somehow feeling more isolated because your feed is full of idealized images that drive unrealistic status comparisons?

Only you can answer these questions and determine a course of action. But a simple resolution to cut down on screen time won’t be enough. It will be like the typical New Year’s resolution to hit the gym and exercise more; it probably fails .

Whatever you determine is the root of the problem, you have to address it through habit change. Try to implement no more than three small changes to your daily routine.

For example, you can schedule periodic breaks. No matter how much you’re enjoying a game or being productive at work, disengage completely from your devices. Then do a five-minute workout or take a stroll outdoors.

Focus on consistency with these behaviors, and take steps to eliminate other unhealthy influences in your environment. These could be negative influences in your feed or devices that don’t need to be present, such as a bedroom TV.

There isn’t a simple solution to excessive screen time because it’s a deceptively complex problem. But as long as you’re honest with yourself and committed to change, you can address the root causes and turn your health around.

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