I’ve had an iPhone since 2013. I remember that I was super excited to get it so I could finally join in the fun of typing with emojis.
It’s seven years later, and I still enjoying texting with emojis. It helps me express my emotion—I’ve been told I’m blunt in texts without them.
Some time in the past seven years, Apple decided to start letting its iPhone users opt to know their screen time. I opted in to that feature, and every Sunday morning, my phone chimes letting me know my average daily usage.
From week to week, the time varies, but on average, it’s about an hour and a half per day.
Sometimes, that doesn’t feel like an excessive amount of time, but other times, I’m ashamed that I spend a little more than 6% of my day on my phone. Factor in sleep time (about 8 hours for me every night, thank you!) and that means, I spend almost 10% of my waking hours staring at my phone.
That’s a little scary. It’s even scarier knowing that my actual screen time is much higher because I sit at a desk staring at a computer 40 hours a week, plus whatever time I spend on my laptop at home. And that’s not even counting TV screen time.
So, is my average screen time something I need to be worried about?
I did some research and found some alarming statistics. According to an article posted in August 2018 on MarketWatch.com, “American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media, according to a new study by market-research group Nielsen.”
WHAT?! That can’t be right!
Let me redo the math of my own life. I sit in front of a screen from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (so actually 9 hours each weekday), plus 1.5 hours on my cellphone daily, plus at least a half hour watching TV in the evening. That equals 11 hours. So technically, I am average. And that’s terrifying to me. I didn’t think I was part of the problem.
But why exactly is spending so much time in front of a screen bad?
Let me tell you the ways. There are plenty.
According to an article from last year on BusinessInsider.com, staring at screens most of the day causes eye strain, blurred vision, headaches and neck and back pain. The light from screens also mimics the sun, disrupting our natural circadian rhythms and sleep cycles.
ScienceNewsForStudents.org also noted that people are sitting a lot more because of their screen time, and this is resulting in more cases of obesity and cancer.
Another surprising—or maybe not so surprising—find from RallyHealth.com is that screen time has led to addiction and reward seeking. Our brains produce dopamine when we feel rewarded—the same way our brains feel on drugs. Essentially scrolling through social media feeds and seeing new information constantly feeds this addiction and produces more and more dopamine.
I guess the takeaway is that we need to find ways to minimize screen time. Maybe that means spending our free time getting outdoors, exercising or reading books (not e-books). Maybe that also means getting up from your desk at work hourly to give your eyes a break. I know I’m going to be more conscious of my screen time going forward.