Think about how much time we spend on our screens: We probably dabble in the daily news, read through our newsletters or scroll through social media between waking up and getting to work.
Then, we get there and face our computers for another eight hours. Or, we clock-in and check our phones at various times throughout our shift. By the time we get home, we kick back on our couches and head straight for the remote, spending the rest of our day in front of the biggest screen of all.
In total, we probably spend more than half of our waking day staring into a screen — and that can't be good for our health. So, what exactly is it doing to it? In this article, we explore the impact excessive screen time has on our health and 10 ways you can set realistic limits.
How many hours of screen time is healthy for adults?
On average, adults spend around 11 hours a day staring into screens. Much of this is unavoidable for individuals in office-based jobs but for many of us, these hours are spent recreationally.
In terms of how much screen time is too much screen time, there is no technical limit for adults. Psychology Today says this research is currently unavailable to us due to the vagueness of the metric.
Theoretically, we could measure our face-to-screen time by our levels of anxiety, stress, depression, quality of sleep or satisfaction, but there is no evidence that a set amount of screen time correlates to a particular consequence, especially because many outside factors would also need to be considered.
It's also extremely difficult to gather data because of how unreliable sourcing it can be. Researchers rely heavily on self reports, which require surveyors to collect and report on their screen time use, but it can be difficult for surveyors to recall or keep accurate track of how much time they spend staring into different screens. Data can also skew significantly if an individual interacts with multiple screens at a time.
Regardless, excessive screen time can result in headaches, eye strain, insomnia or trouble sleeping, neck, shoulder and back pain or repetitive use injuries like tendonitis. Therefore, best screen time practices are still highly recommended — and we gathered 11 of the best ones below:
How do I limit my screen time?
1. Avoid a working lunch.
When it's time for your break, consider stepping away from your laptop. And in an attempt to limit your screen time on all screens, keep away from your phone or a television, too. Change up your routine by reading a book, completing an activity or stepping outside for a bite rather than lunching in. But do use this time as an actual break — not as a challenge to multitask lunch and work, further straining your eyes in an effort to concentrate.
2. Pick up a new hobby.
Instead of binge-watching ASMR videos on social media or keeping up with the Kardashians on E!, invest in a stimulating new hobby. Try knitting, working on a puzzle or practicing a new recipe you picked up on Pinterest. These hands-on activities can be just as entertaining as the games on your phone, and may even come with a greater, physical reward.
3. Put your phone in a different room.
In an effort to limit your screen time, it doesn't hurt to keep your phone far away from you. Leave your phone in your bag if you're out or in another room if you're home; this gives you time to check yourself between wanting to pull out your phone and actually reaching for it.
4. Limit the ways you access information.
With newsletters, text alerts and breaking news rolling in on multiple platforms, it can be hard to resist the urge to click. Choose your trusted sources and prioritize those alerts by modifying your notification settings so you're only receiving those updates.
5. Set a screen time limit.
Many smartphones come with the feature to set screen limits by app or timeframe. Disallow certain apps for a period of time so you're not tempted to scroll through Twitter — or even email — before or after your set hours. You may also be able to see your screen time activity, categorized by app or day, and results from your usage may be just the wake-up call you need to put your phone down.
6. Delete apps from your phone.
To extend on the previous limitation, you could also delete certain apps from your phone so you don't have access to them as readily. Try this with the apps you think you spend way too much time on and only give yourself to access them via computer or tablet.
7. Don't watch TV in bed.
Television screens omit a blue light that stimulates your attention and suppresses the secretion of melatonin which your body needs to fall asleep. Keep your TV off, your laptop far away and your phone elsewhere charging in order to limit your screen time.
8. Step outside.
Go for a walk or explore the environment around you with a trip outdoors. By exposing yourself to fresh air and new sights, smells and sounds, you'll give yourself the sensory break you need to return to your screen with new eyes.
9. Incentivize yourself.
This one's a good one because it means if you can stay away from your phone, laptop or tablet for a certain amount of time, you can enjoy a reward of your choosing — like an extra episode of your favorite show or an early afternoon dessert.
10. Make a "no phones" rule under certain circumstances.
In order to maximize your time and attention, you can implement a no-cellphone-rule at the dinner table, in group outings or at public events. Replace your phone with other useful tech devices, like a digital camera and camcorder, that can help you make memories without requiring you to stare into a screen.