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Screen Time Unveiled: Its Effects on Your Health and Happiness

In an era of digital empowerment, screens have become integral to our lives, offering immense benefits but also posing significant health risks, necessitating a mindful approach to ensure they enhance rather than hinder our well-being.

By Binita Debi Agarwala / Edited by Aiden Chantemsin

Updated December 8, 2023

In today's fast-paced world, screens have become our loyal companions, accompanying us throughout our daily routines. Whether for work, leisure, or socializing, screens have been woven into our lives' very fabric. However, this convenience comes at a cost that often slips under our radar until it's too late.

The digital revolution has irrevocably altered our lives. Smartphones, computers, tablets, and smart TVs have seamlessly integrated into our daily existence. The World Wide Web, a vast realm of information and connectivity, has reshaped how we communicate, learn, and entertain ourselves. Yet, with this immense power comes a great responsibility.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed our reliance on screens to unprecedented levels. From remote work and virtual classrooms to online social gatherings, screens became our lifelines during times of physical isolation. In fact, screen time surged by 60 to 80% for adults during the pandemic, underscoring their omnipresence in our lives.

Screen time isn't inherently detrimental. It's a tool—a powerful one that can either enrich or diminish our well-being, depending on how we wield it.

Over the past two decades, digital technology has unlocked incredible opportunities. Screens have become conduits of communication, fostering connections that transcend geographical boundaries. Human connection lies at the heart of our well-being, and screens have played a vital role, especially during periods of social distancing.

Nonetheless, it's not all rosy. Excessive screen time has ushered in a slew of physical health issues, from eye strain to back discomfort and disrupted sleep patterns. Our younger generation is particularly vulnerable, experiencing reduced physical activity, heightened sedentary behavior, and sleep disturbances due to prolonged screen exposure. Some examples include neck and shoulder pain, repetitive strain injuries, obesity and metabolic disorders, cardiovascular conditions, and vision-related problems. This digital reliance has given rise to irritability, difficulties in concentration, and an increased risk of myopia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded the alarm, highlighting how screen time often replaces healthier habits such as physical activity and regular sleep, leading to detrimental consequences like obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance among adults.

Our mental well-being hasn't remained unscathed, either. While screens have been a lifeline for staying connected, they've also introduced new mental health challenges. Excessive screen time has been linked to anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The constant influx of information and the allure of social media have contributed to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and even technology addiction.

Sleep, our elusive treasure, often slips through our fingers in the presence of screens. The blue light emitted by screens disrupts our circadian rhythms, making it difficult to fall asleep. Blue light exposure affects the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. When exposed to blue light in the evening, melatonin production is suppressed. It's a vicious cycle—screen time affects the quantity and quality of our sleep. Children and adolescents are particularly susceptible to inadequate sleep due to screen time, resulting in delayed bedtimes, reduced total sleep duration, and compromised sleep quality. The exposure to screen-based light in the evenings disrupts their sleep patterns, leading to increased daytime fatigue.

So, what can we do to restore a harmonious balance between our digital and physical lives?

The first step is recognizing that screens are here to stay. Complete avoidance is not viable, but cultivating healthier digital habits is within our reach. Setting boundaries, engaging mindfully with screens, and nurturing media literacy skills are crucial.

Parents play a pivotal role in modeling responsible screen use for their children. Creating screen-free zones, especially in bedrooms, can significantly improve sleep hygiene. Remember, even small changes can yield substantial benefits over time.

As we navigate this digital landscape, we must proceed cautiously. The relationship between screen time and our well-being is multifaceted, far from black and white. Instead of vilifying screens, we should focus on their mindful and intentional use.

Ultimately, it's up to each of us to strike a delicate equilibrium between screen time and our overall well-being. Let's remember that screens are tools at our disposal, and it falls upon us to ensure that they enhance rather than hinder our lives. In this era of digital empowerment, the reins of control over our digital interactions firmly rest in our hands.


Screen-viewing behaviours of children before and after the 2020–21 COVID-19 lockdowns in the UK: a mixed methods study | BMC Public Health Trends in Screen Time Use Among Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic, July 2019 Through August 2021 | Pediatrics | JAMA Network Open How Screen Time May Cause Insomnia in Teens | Sleep Foundation Screen time and digital technology use: how it affects child and teenage sleep