Mental Health Effects of Excessive Screen Time
If we’re honest, most of us would admit we look at some form of digital screen more than we do the face of our friends and loved ones. From our phones to iPad, laptops and flatscreen TVs the size of an entire wall, screen time for most people is definitely on the rise. But what exactly are the mental health effects of all of this screen time?
Without realizing it, many of us are hampering our natural sleep cycle with so much screen time. Our electronic devices emit a blue light that interferes with our production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Screen time before bed will make it very hard to fall asleep. And a lack of quality sleep can cause our mood to dip and make it hard for us to deal with everyday stressors.
Impaired Social Skills
There is a bit of irony when it comes to screen time. We’re on our devices more and more as a way to connect with others. And yet, in reality we are alone when socializing digitally. Fewer real-life social interactions can lead to social anxiety and loneliness.
Poorer Emotional Regulation
Too much time on our devices affects our ability to register and process our emotions. Sometimes without being conscious of it, devices are used as a coping skill to manage any anxiety or stress of the day. Using technology as a distraction is much like escaping reality and leads to “numbing-out” feelings. Over-use of technology in this way could lead to longer term consequences including a diminished ability to tolerate any discomfort and an increase in irritability. It’s easy to pull a phone out of your pocket or grab that ipad on the table and get lost for hours without even being aware.
Social media platforms are where we go to compare ourselves to others. Compare = Despair!! Often when scrolling through our timelines, we perceive everyone else to have their act together, to be happier, healthier and more successful. Doing this day after day can take a real toll on our self-esteem. Truth is, social media is a “highlight reel” and doesn’t reflect the full scope of someone’s life. Additionally, media platforms use algorithms to push specific content to your main pages in order to get traffic to different advertisements, sometimes making people believe that they “need” certain things in order to be happy. This also happens with politics and fear-based news, which could overstimulate our nervous systems and create anxiety.
Finding Healthier Alternatives
If you think you’re spending too much time in front of your screens, there are some steps you can take. First, make a commitment to keep TVs and all other devices out of your bedroom so you can ensure a good night’s rest.
Make dinner time with the family a “screen-free zone.”
And finally, take up some new hobbies, connect with old friends and try to get outdoors more. Your mental health will thank you.