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Importance of Reducing Digital Screen Usage



Why Does Screen Time Increase

The advent of digital screen technology to the masses is a recent phenomenon that can be dated back to the late 1970s, with three computer models in particular that were hugely successful on a commercial scale.


Since then, hardware for this particular type of technology has improved substantially. PC hardware has been and still is getting upgrades to almost all kinds of components, from monitors (CRT to LCD/OLED) to certain PC specifications. This advancement in hardware was for desktops, laptops, tablets, and even smartphones. This breakthrough in PC technology for the average consumer was the start of things to come, as internet technology became more advanced throughout the years, from 56k modem internet to the high internet speeds of today. Quick internet speeds also led to the development of websites with more media and content than ever before.


Fast-forward to the modern day, when human beings can access all types of information immediately at their desktop or in the palm of their hand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This omnipresence of hardware, coupled with the addictive nature of certain software/apps, video games, and social media services like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and others, has increased symptoms of what experts now have named "Computer Vision Syndrome," or CVS.


In today's world, access to high-speed internet and decent computer hardware is necessary to progress and move forward in society. Because of this, people of all ages spend more time than ever connected to technology, specifically to digital screens displaying video, audio, text, images, etc. 


COVID-19 amplified CVS issues, as people weren't allowed to be around each other. This contagious virus resulted in social distancing and connecting through the digital world.[1] It extensively impacted individuals' physical, mental, and social well-being during and after the pandemic.


Physical Health Deficit From Prolonged Use

When one is engaged in using digital devices, some may be cautious of how they interact with their screens. However, most people are not aware of this, and because of this, physical health detriments may result. COVID exacerbated some of these adverse health effects, as people during that time led more sedentary, inactive lifestyles as a result of strict social distancing. This inactivity and increase in screen time led to increased rates of obesity, abnormal sleep times, and impacts on heart, eye, and bone health.[2]


Eye health impacts are also more apparent with increased digital device usage. People who use smartphones for more than two hours a day and other digital devices for more than four hours a day experience symptoms that can be mild to severe, such as increased eye strain, burning to dry eyes, or headaches.[3]


Mental and Social Health Effects of Constant Use

Psychological well-being (PWB) is also affected by mental health. As people spent more time accessing screens during the pandemic, so was the decline in mental health for the vast majority of users. Children are particularly vulnerable, as they can impact their cognitive capabilities if they aren't exposed to natural external stimuli and can be negatively affected if replaced with increased screen time. Specific psychological ailments also occur and persist, such as depression, anxiety, and short attention spans resulting from excessive screen use.


Negative social impacts are also apparent due to substantial digital screen usage. Social anxiety is more prevalent than ever, thanks to how electronic devices can have specific programs, applications, and games that make them more addicting and enticing for repeat user experience. This negative impact can be a chronic issue as well since a lack of social interactions increases social anxiety and isolation, which makes essential skills like public speaking challenging to execute.


There are gender differences with social impacts as well. Boys have body image issues related to acquiring and maintaining a more masculine physique. Girls have self-esteem issues associated with social media use, and it can lead to social anxiety disorder, which can even impact their development into adolescence and adulthood.[4]


Benefits of Limiting Screen Usage

Limiting screen use is essential if we want to help maintain our physique, mental state, and social skills. As humans, we are witnessing unprecedented times regarding the constant flow of information at our fingertips and its consequences on human health. By reducing screen time, specific outcomes of our health improve.


Physically, our eyes improve over time if we refrain from excessive use. If we include exercise in the daily routine, it can reduce the levels of obesity as well. Mental improvements occur if there is more time for self-reflection instead of the constant busyness that digital technology has brought forth. Socially, instead of meeting online and typing with screens, face-to-face human interactions are ideal if we want to alleviate some of the adverse effects, such as attention deficit disorder or social anxiety disorder.


By reducing digital electronic use, we can help maintain our overall health and help others suffering from the same issues. By being mindful and aware of the time spent interacting with digital devices, we can stay vigilant against looming addictions because we control the input, not vice versa.


Strategies for Lessening Digital Device Usage

There are numerous methods to reduce digital screen time. The most important aspect is to prevent it earlier before it becomes chronic and addictive. Children, especially those under 13, shouldn't have social media access for dependency and management reasons (e.g., Dealing with large swaths of users commenting).[5]


These platforms keep users engaged for as long as possible, purposefully targeting systems that pertain to the addictive brain, like substance abuse mechanisms. It is essential that safeguards are in place to prevent abuse of this technology, either through interventions at a systemic level through policies and education or with individual actions such as programs that can shut off specific apps/games based on time presets.



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