What is a typical use of screens?
We have become somewhat reliant on our devices, and so using them has become quite typical. For example, young children are given screen time to watch educational shows and to play educational games; older kids and adolescents attend classes, complete homework assignments, work on collaborative projects, and play games. Most of us also use devices for keeping up to date with the news, shopping, reading, chatting with our friends and keeping up with the latest social media trends.
When should I pay special attention to the use of screens?
Almost all of us have already had someone concerned about excessive use of screens. But how much is problematic? We should take multiple factors into consideration when thinking about “screen time,” such as our age, the reasons we are using technology (e.g., completing an assignment versus gaming or using social media), and our individual needs.
Here are some signs that we may be developing a problem:
- Interference with everyday activities. When screen use interferes with our everyday activities, such as getting ready for school or completing homework.
- Loss of sleep. When screen use results in fewer hours of sleep, sleeping later into the day, or exhaustion during the day.
- Behavioral troubles. Getting into arguments if someone attempts to cut down our screen or technology time.
- Emotional troubles. Feeling sad, withdrawn, anxious, or nervous when offline, or feeling worried about being back online.
- Social troubles. When screen use interferes with socializing, such as looking at screens during dinner or other activities involving people.
- Loss of interest in other activities. When screen use results in feeling less interest in other hobbies or extracurricular activities, such as athletic, artistic, and social endeavors.
- Physical troubles. When screen use leads to somatic symptoms like headaches, back pain, muscle tension, nausea, or upset stomach. Also, when it leads to increased rates of obesity due to declines in physical activity and significant sedentary lifestyle.
- Not attending to basic needs. When screen use leads to spending more hours than appropriate without eating or or using the restroom.
What can I do if I struggle with excessive use of screens?
It can be really hard to change our screen use patterns, even when we notice that it is being harmful to us. So, there are a few things you may try:
- Keep track of your screen time and habits. Pay attention to how much time you spend in front of the screens each day. Also, note what are the moments when you spend longer in front of the screens.
- Set a goal and progressively cut your screen time down. Set a goal of how much time you want and need to be spending using screens. Try cutting this time down by minutes or hours each day progressively.
- Create a screen time schedule. Try to figure out when and for what purposes you plan on using screens and technology.
- Keep devices out of your sight as much as you can. When we have electronic devices close to us at all times, it is very easy to reach them without even realizing. So, try putting devices in a place where you can't see them, especially when you are trying to get things done.
- Remove devices from bedrooms. Everyone should switch off screens about an hour before bed time. Sometimes, we need to remove them from bedrooms as well, which helps ward off temptation to use them at night. Make your bedrooms “no screen zones.”
- Try alternative activities. Sometimes we have to think about alternative activities to reduce our use of screens. Try to engage in outdoor and social activities, or hanging out with friends.
- Exercise, eat well and do things you enjoy. Maintaining physical wellness and practicing pleasant activities may be useful distractions from the use of screens.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be the moment to ask a trusted adult to seek out professional support.
What kind of professional support can I seek out for help?
It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate or guilty if we experience difficulties with the use of screens. But, if you think you are facing this difficulty, support and guidance are available now.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on excessive screen use can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.