Powering down for health


STILLWATER — In our fast-paced, technology saturated world, it is common to spend a large portion of the day staring at a screen. According to research, kids spend an average of seven hours a day looking at screens, and depending on the job, adults can spend even more. Although some of this screen time is necessary, fun, and can even be educational, there are many different negative effects that screen time can have on overall health. Some of these adverse consequences are:

• Vision: Staring at a screen for extended periods of time can cause strained eyes, dry eyes, blurred vision and sometimes headaches.

• Sleep: There are studies that suggest screen time, specifically the blue light from digital devices, can disrupt sleep-promoting hormones and keep people from getting good rest.

• Weight: The more time people spend sitting and looking at screens, the less active they are, which can lead to weight gain and diseases associated with an unhealthy weight like diabetes and heart disease.

• Social skills: In both kids and adults, spending time looking at screens means they are not making connections with real people, which can impact not only their social interactions but can also cause a decrease in self-confidence and an increase in social anxiety.

• Learning: Studies have linked excessive TV and video games to the likelihood of having attention disorders. Kids are also likely to perform worse in school if they spend most of their time when they get home in front of a TV or a computer.

The goal is to not do away with technology or screen time all together, but to limit exposure and be strategic about where and when we look at screens. Strategies for being more responsible about screen time and therefore increasing overall health include:

• Try to restrict screen time to as little as possible for children under the age of 2.

• Young children and teens should be limited to two hours a day.

• Keep TVs and computers outside of bedrooms.

• If you must look at a screen for work, try to go as technology free as possible once at home.

• Try to avoid watching TV during meals and limit computer time during homework to only what is necessary.

• Use screen time as a reward and not the norm.

• Set a smart phone curfew and try to avoid looking at any screens starting an hour before bed time.

• Set an example for your children, spouse, friends and community! Try to build community around things other than technology!

Screen technology can be a wonderful asset for work, a great entertainment and a way to connect with the world. Just as in other areas of life, balance is key when it comes to screen time, and while getting rid of it all together may prove extremely difficult, limiting screen time for both children and adults can lead to better overall health and happiness, which is definitely worth powering down!

Lauren Abbott is a TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist.