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It’s no secret that Americans are addicted to their screens. From smartphones to tablets, you name it and Americans are eating them up. Just how much? Adults consume almost 11 hours a day of electronic media, which includes TV, smartphones and computers, according to a Nielsen report.
Yet being too connected comes with serious consequences. Not only could it lead to physical problems like weight gain, sleep issues, headaches, backaches and carpal tunnel syndrome, you also risk experiencing less socialization and less family quality time.
The dangers aren’t reserved exclusively for adults, however. “Inactivity from screen time can set up a pattern for a lifetime of inactivity and lead to obesity in kids,” explains Scott Renshaw, MD, physician at IU Health. Sleep deprivation, vision problems and loss of socialization and social skills are other woes kids may have to deal with.
How much screen time is too much, though? For adults, that’s a tough one to quantify, although there’s a simple sign to watch out for. “If screen time is distracting from friends, family or other relationships, then it’s too much,” says Renshaw, who admits being anti-screen time and anti-mobile device.
For kids, however, those times are different. According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 24 months should avoid digital media (with the exception of video chatting). Between two and five years old, screen time should be limited to one hour a day of high-quality programming. Even as kids age, time spent with “entertainment media” should be capped at no more than one to two hours a day.
Even with these guidelines in place, taking a digital detox should be a daily event. “I’m all about prioritizing family time, and screen time takes away from this,” says Dr. Renshaw, who doesn’t have any screen time after getting home from work when his child is still awake. “It’s sad to think that as a society we need to schedule a digital detox, but we don’t schedule helping our kids with homework, playing together outside or going on a walk with a significant other.”
If it helps, turn off all of your digital devices and keep them out of view so you’re not tempted to check. The upshot? “You’ll have more energy, more time for relationships, more time for family, and more time to be active,” Dr. Renshaw says.