We live in an overstimulated society. Between TV screens, phone screens, computer screens, tablet screens, phablet screens, laptop screens, and movie screens, are brains are just plain ol’ overloaded. Just for fun, think back to your last work day. How many hours were spent looking at a screen? What about when you got home? If you’re anything like me (and obviously I represent all of America…), you spend 8+ hours total looking at screens.
According to research done by The Nielson Company, as seen on Mashable, on average, how many hours per day do Americans use digital media?
a) 5 hours
b) 8 hours
c) 11 hours
d) 14 hours
Have an answer? According to the above stated research, US adults spend 11 hours per day using some sort of digital media. 11 hours! Add in time spent in transit to and from work, time getting ready for work, then for bed, and time talking on the phone, that leaves precious little time unplugged.
Not only does that result in us having less time connecting with other people, it can also have serious effects on our brains and stress levels. According to a 2014 report by Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley of Psychology Today, excess screen time not only effects adults, but it can also damage developing brains of our kids. While most of these effects are seen in full-blown media addiction, some of them may appear earlier.
Just a few of the big ones:
- Excess screen time can make it more difficult to regulate emotions and stress, leading to outbursts and tantrums. No fun for anyone involved.
Screen addiction can lead to brain atrophy – parts of the brain that process any number of things may actually shrink. This could effect many brain areas, like those that help us plan and organize, develop empathy and compassion, and even control our impulses.
So we know that gray matters (ha), but white matters, too. Too much screen time – over time – can lead to white matter shrinkin’ away. White matter is what helps the brain communicate with itself. It’s kind of (very) important.
Being constantly stimulated can increase stress hormones, decrease how well you process info, and decrease performance on other tasks. Turns out our brains need to chill from time to time.
The solution? Unplug, folks. Carve out time each day that is technology free. Here are some ideas:
- No screen time – phones or TV- during dinner.
- Have everyone turn in their devices at 8 PM (parents, too).
- No one uses their device while they’re getting ready.
- When out to eat, have everyone put their phones in the middle of the table. The first person to reach for their phone has to pay the bill (if you’re adults) or do an extra chore (if you’re a kid).
Sometimes I have weekends where I do the unthinkable: I don’t check my email or Facebook. All. Weekend. And you know what? It’s glorious. Sometimes I leave my phone on silent, too. Pure bliss!
Oh, I know it’s a hard habit to break, this constant media connection. Sometimes I have to force myself not to automatically reach for my smart phone any time I have a handful of spare seconds while waiting in line, walking the dog or on a work break. I can’t be the only one with this struggle. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen families out to dinner and most of them are looking at their phones and not each other. While the stimuli from screens may seen more alluring, it does not compare to time spent actually looking at and listening to our loved ones.
In closing, let today be the day we lead by example – let’s restore the balance between media time and face-to-face human time. It’s time we power down our over-buzzing brains and engage in the real world.
Thanks for reading! Now, get off your screen and unplug.