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Last updated: 20 days ago

Screen Time to Blame for Mental Health Crisis

If you were a kid in the sixties and seventies, you likely heard a parent warn you that too much television watching and sitting too close to the screen would hurt your eyes. I’m not sure that was true; likely just parental speak for ‘get outside and play, kid!’ or ‘go clean your room!’ But in this day and age, screentime warnings come with data to back them up.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has discovered through research that children aged eight to 10 spend six hours a day watching screens, children aged 11 to 14 spend nine hours per day watching screens. Common Sense Media’s Commonsense Census found adolescents use screens for entertainment as much as 8 hours a day.

Those numbers ought to be alarming.

Screen Time to Blame for Mental Health Crisis

Excessive Screentime can Contribute to Mental Health Issues

Research has found a relationship between considerable screen time and heightened rates of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances, especially in adolescents. It can also lead to sedentary behaviors, such as disrupt sleep patterns and decrease physical activity.

The matter is complicated, however, because not all screen time is equal. Time and content make a difference. Using screen time for education, or to connect with family or a supportive community can have positive effects, whereas screen time that is isolating or in viewing harmful or stressful material, feeding habits and addiction, makes a negative impact.

Research has also shown that the screen time/mental health relationship is also affected by genetic predispositions, socioeconomic status, community support, and family dynamics.

The amount and purpose behind your screentime and the material you’re viewing are not the only factors to consider. Exposure to laptops, iPads, smartphones, and TVs affect stress and anxiety levels and can cause or contribute to sleep disorders in adults and children. There are also other physical risk factors, including high blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance, and heart issues. The psychological risk factors include digital device dependency, depression, and content-influenced negativity.

Screen Time to Blame for Mental Health Crisis

Internet Addiction (IA)

As tech has evolved, we can now consume content from anywhere in the world at the click of a cursor. Internet use has risen to the point where it impacts our behavior, our moods, and our interactions with others, warranting a name: Internet Addiction (IA).

Internet Addiction has not yet been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but a growing number of psychologists encountering this disorder expect it will be soon. Internet addiction causes people to become isolated and dependent on the views they read on the internet, even if those views aren’t necessarily their own. It reduces the amount of time spent interacting with people in their own life. When you aren’t interacting with real people, your feel-good hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin aren’t being released.

Here are some of the ways Internet Addiction can affect you physically:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Interrupted sleep from phone notifications
  • Rise of bad cholesterol and loss of good cholesterol
  • Cortisol issues
  • Vision issues
  • Bone mineral density issues
  • Bone and joint issues
  • Structural changes in the frontal lobe of your brain
  • Reduced sperm viability (infertility)
  • Radiation exposure

Here are some ways Internet addiction can affect you physiologically:

  • Decreased interest in other activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Self-injury
  • ADHD
  • Life satisfaction
  • Decreased levels of mindfulness (mental wandering)
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Cyberbullying
  • Academic decline
  • Access to pornography
  • Skipping school or work
  • Family conflict
  • Increased stress levels
  • Low self-esteem
  • Decreased body image

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FOMO

Another condition that is rather new to the scene but growing in presentation is known as the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). This is an anxiety brought on by too much social media use, that you might be missing out on something. In simple terms, you’re scrolling and come across a photo of several of your friends having a good time without you. You begin asking yourself, Why didn’t they invite me? Why wasn’t I included? Other posts warrant other ‘fears’ such as, Why wasn’t I tagged? Why wasn’t I notified? How come so-and-so didn’t like my comment? Why didn’t so-and-so reply?

Again, like the screentime concerns above, the mental health relationship where FOMO is concerned is also affected by genetic predispositions, socioeconomic status, community support, and family dynamics. And, whereas boys/young men spend much of their screentime gaming, girls/young women spend more of their screentime scrolling social media which makes them more susceptible to FOMO and related mental health concerns, anxiety, depression, and etc.

Screen Time to Blame for Mental Health Crisis

Too Much of a Good Thing Become a Bad Thing if it Keeps You from the Best Things!

While there are many valid and valuable reasons for screentime in our lives, the best practice is to use in moderation—moderation in both the amount of time spent and the material spent consuming. Parents should have frequent conversations with their children—more than the occasional ‘sitting too close to the tv will burn your eyes out’ threats, invest in real conversations. Explain why breaks and moderation are important. Become an involved parent. And lead by example. Limiting your own use of your telephone and devices may just be the best place to start. You just might become closer as a family!

Get Help Today.

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery.
Let us call you to learn more about our treatment options.

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Let us call you to learn more about our treatment options.

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