When it comes to the long-term effects of screen time on our children, parents have a PhD from the University of Google with a Master’s in Mom Guilt and a Bachelor’s in I Have No Idea What I’m Doing. The general consensus is no — zip, zero, zilch — screen time for kids under the age of two.
This rule extends beyond television to laptops, tablets, and smartphones, making it increasingly difficult to keep a child’s prying eyes from peering over your shoulder and getting a secondhand hit of screencrack.
No expert, I can rattle off the top three negative effects that excessive screen time has on children: sleep deprivation, aggression, poor social skills. Disturbing claims, to say the least, and the research is even more damning.
Not all parents subscribe to the recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics — whose advice on everything from screen time to sleep positions seems to change weekly — but parents and experts alike can agree on one point: everything in moderation.
While the stats regarding social skills and aggression are top-of-mind for parents, the effects of excessive screen time on themselves is often fuzzy. We like to associate tech addiction with children and teens, but adults are just as susceptible to these effects.
As a mom who works in front of the glow of a computer screen and is often glued to her phone in an effort to keep up with her inbox, I struggle with getting the R&R I need. This information genuinely made me want to make an effort to unplug …right after I answer two more emails.
3 Reasons to Reduce Your Screen Time
1. Get more sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone produced by the brain which helps maintain sleep. Its release is determined by the amount of light in your bedroom. In short, the glow from your television and smart devices is tricking your body into thinking it’s daytime. This disruption your sleep cycle can lead to anxiety, fatigue, and irritability.
Night after night of smartphone-induced restlessness is a recipe for disaster for parents who are already anxious, exhausted, and irritable. One solution is to set a family media curfew and ditch the Facebook creeping 1 to 2 hours before bed.
Keeping your cell phone outside of your bedroom, shutting it off, or investing in an actual alarm clock — I think they still make those? — are all steps toward reducing your overall screen consumption and getting quality Zs. Wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day (and your toddler).
2. Reduce your anxiety.
The effects of evening screen time on our sleep cycles directly contributes to stress and our ability to manage it. Anything that causes sleep deprivation also causes stress, which in turn leads to an impaired immune system, higher incidence of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, problems with concentration, diabetes, depression, and even cancer — yikes!
Easier said than done for busy families but studies have shown that closing your eyes for 15 minutes in relative silence can have restorative effects, say in your car during your lunch break or while the kids are taking a nap.
3. Have more sex.
The negative impact of screen addiction isn’t limited to sleep. Your relationships and sex life can also take a hit. Not limited to TVs and smartphones, sleep experts advise against computers in the bedroom. The bedroom is not a good place for a home office, because you associate the room with work instead of sleep or sex.
The glow from your computer screen does not ignite the flames of passion, unless of course you’re really, really into Excel spreadsheets — and no judgment if that’s your thing.
We’ve all been on a bad date with a nice enough person who spends the night checking their phone like they’re about to be called in to perform emergency surgery. In marriage we become more lax in our behavior but these bad habits can convey the same lack of respect for your partner as “that phone person” you went out with once.
Tips I’ve found include creating a “gadget-free zone” in your home (for example, the kichen table), limit checking email to a few times a day, or prioritizing your offline presence (family media curfew, game nights, movie nights, date nights).
These simple tricks are designed help you create boundaries and cultivate a healthier attitude toward digital media that applies to the family as a whole — not just children. For more wellness and fitness ideas for busy moms, check out yourlittleladybug.com/blog or find us on Facebook.