How Does Screen Time Impact Your Health?

Screen time can have negative effects on physical and mental health. In the United States, the average person spends over 7 hours a day on the internet across all devices, with some spending up to 11 hours a day. Prioritize healthy self-care over screen time. Nurses General Nursing Article


How Does Screen Time Impact Your Health?

The amount of time individuals spend interacting with digital devices, known as screen time, can have negative effects on health. In the United States, the average person spends over 7 hours a day on the internet across all devices, with some spending up to 11 hours a day. While screen time may be unavoidable for work, there are physical and mental health effects associated with excessive use.  It's important to prioritize healthy self-care over screen time.

Health Effects of Screen Time

Physical Effects

Extended use of screens can cause physical strain on the eyes, neck, and hands due to excessive keyboard use. Prolonged viewing of computer or phone screens can cause eye strain, which can be exacerbated by poor posture and untreated vision issues. The longer the time spent staring at a screen, the more significant the issue becomes.

Using your phone can cause your head to drop forward, which can lead to strain and tension in your neck and shoulder muscles. This can cause your shoulders to round and lift up towards your ears, resulting in discomfort and spasms.

Sedentary behavior associated with screen time use can contribute to the development of cardiovascular risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.

An important concern related to the use of screens is the negative impact it has on sleep. Using electronic devices such as phones or computers before bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep. The blue light emitted by computer screens interferes with the body's natural sleep cycle. Additionally, the sounds coming from these devices can disrupt sleep. Engaging in negative news consumption, also known as "doomscrolling," can stimulate the brain and interfere with REM sleep.

Mental Health Effects

Excessive screen time can have negative effects on mental health, causing anxiety and depression and inhibiting social skills, which often leads to loneliness. In moments of loneliness or feeling down, it can be tempting to seek comfort by reaching for the phone or surfing the internet, but this isn't a healthy form of self-care. Such habits can lead to increased screen time and further negative feelings about oneself.

Some Questions to Ask

If you're unsure whether you're spending excessive time on your computer or phone, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you eating well?
  2. Are you sleeping well?
  3. Are you leaving the house and being social?
  4. Are you getting enough exercise?
  5. Is work going well?

If you aren't having any issues, then it's likely that you're spending a reasonable amount of time on your phone.    

Better Habits for Screen Time

1- Do things that are most important before screen time

2- Do things that make you forget to check your phone

3- Keep phones out of bedrooms to prevent sleep disruption from the temptation to use them and the disruption of screen light.  During sleeping hours, ensure that notifications are on silent mode. If it is necessary to use the phone before sleeping, consider using an app that reduces blue light, such as Twilight, Night Shift, or F.Lux.

4- When you reach for your phone or start browsing the internet, take a moment to reflect on your purpose and the amount of time you plan to spend.

5- Put your phone away and/or set it on silent mode when working on important tasks or when in a social setting.

6- Track your screen time and replace it with healthy activities such as being outdoors or getting some exercise

7- Take advantage of technology to prioritize your well-being by utilizing alarm settings to prompt breaks from screen time, disabling notifications, or installing an app that restricts access to screen usage.  Some options are IOS Screen Time, Freedom, Social Fever, Space, OffTheGrid, AntiSocial.  For computer IOS and/or Windows, try Self Control, Cold Turkey, or FocusMe.

8- Be mindful.  It's important to focus on the task at hand, whether it's eating, exercising, or something else, rather than relying on your phone for company.   


Digital 2020: Global Digital Overview: DataReportal

Social Connectedness, Excessive Screen Time During COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Review of Current Evidence: Frontiers Media S.A.

Computer vision syndrome: American Optometric Association (AOA)

Is Your Smartphone Causing Your Neck Pain?: Cleveland Clinic

Why You Should Ditch Your Phone Before Bed: Cleveland Clinic

Excessive screen use and gaming considerations during COVID19: World Health Organization

Are video games, screens another addiction?: Mayo Clinic Health System

The 5 Core Healthy Screen Habits: Healthy Screen Habits

Experts Can't Agree on How Much Screen Time Is Too Much for Adults: TIME USA, LLC.

Kate Chamberlin has 21 years experience and specializes in Intensive Care, Care Management.

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Davey Do

1 Article; 10,372 Posts

Specializes in Psych (25 years), Medical (15 years).

Excellent article, Kate Chamberlin!

To the Mental Health portion of your article, I would like to add that the therapeutic value of attempting to decrease stress through "ranting" online is counterproductive.

I have no studies to back this premise up, except that of first-hand empirical results. That, and something a member here on allnurses noted some years back.

Different parts of the brain are utilized when we type on a keyboard rather than writing by hand. I find myself more easily agitated when using a computer- in expressing myself in the written word or through art- yet experience more of a calming effect when using "analog" methods.

I noticed this initial agitation years ago when I got online first thing after awakening. To remedy this, I made a commitment to express myself in an analog method before ever going online.

After years of using a computer for graphic art and animation, I now do the vast majority of my art with pen& ink, watercolors, etc. In years past, before retiring, digital expression was easier and faster, yet less satisfying. Now that I have world and time, digital has taken a backseat to analog.

I went as far as to buy a 1959 Remington Travel-Riter typewriter to use in correspondence and art. I looked up some YouTubes and stumbled across an excellent documentary, "California Typewriter". In it, among others, great artists and writers such as Tom Hanks, Sam Sheppard, David McCollough, and John Mayer talk about the "tangible" benefits of using a typewriter over a computer and keyboard.

California Typewriter is a revelatory, eye-opening masterpiece worth anyone's time to watch. A favorite line from it:

"The revolution will be typewritten!"

Kate Chamberlin RN BSN

1 Article; 2 Posts

Specializes in Intensive Care, Care Management.

Hello Davey,

I agree that online ranting falls in with "doomscrolling" in contributing to agitation.  I wonder if there is research that supports the activation of different parts of the brain when typing by hand vs. using a computer, as I've heard this also.  I think these issues speak to the need to ask oneself "What is my purpose? Is this helpful?  Is it what I want or need to be doing now?" when interacting with a computer or smartphone.

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