I’m sure by now you’ve heard the term Zoom burnout or Zoom fatigue. Even though we are sitting still, and our bodies are not active, our minds are being exhausted by staring at screens all day. And it’s not just your computer screen! Most of our homes have multiple tablets and smart phones as well.
When you hear of setting screen time limits, you probably think it is meant in relation to your children, but what about screen time for adults? Depending on what source you look at, Americans can be spending anywhere from 10 to 17 hours per day on screens. Up to 44 years of your LIFE! Just staring at screens! And much of it isn’t productive time, though people often think that it is. The health consequences of so much screen time include: dry eyes and headaches, less physical activity leading to obesity, difficulty sleeping, poor mental health, and a strain on your personal relationships. Being addicted smart phones has become a very real problem, more so for adolescents who typically have their social life revolve around their phones, but it can happen to anyone. Particularly pay attention if any of your loved ones mention how much you use your phone as it may be hurting your relationships.
Many parents think they are modelling healthy online behaviours for their children, but if they are distracted by their phones, they may be missing critical connections with their children.
I can’t deny that technology has been a life-saver in this pandemic, letting individuals continue to work and earn an income, letting friends and families connect virtually, but there is also a cost. For very young children particularly, making a face-to-face connection is so important. Babies learn by imitating others and through a give and take (or serve and return as it is called) exchange with their caregivers. Without this, they are in danger of having difficulty forming secure, healthy relationships with others when they are older. Children under 2 should not be watching screens at all, and older children should be watching with an adult so they can discuss or explain what might be happening, and engage with their child. Live online programs that promote participation (check out bridgewaycentre.ca for programs) are better than just passively watching a program.
Many phones can now track your screen time and it is easy to see which types of apps are being used most. Consider what your triggers to phone use might be, are you bored or anxious? Or maybe it’s just a habit that could be replaced if the phone is out of reach. Is the time on your phone making you happier? Even adults can be crankywhen being pulled away from technology. Personal connection is the one thing many of us have been missing during this pandemic, but maybe we are missing out on these genuine moments of connection with our loved ones by only being partially present, ears open, but eyes glued to screen.