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Electronic devices have an undeniable appeal for adults... and children! What is the impact of screen time on health?
The time spent in front of screens is a topic that concerns everyone at a time when each household has at least seven “screens” on average. In fact, we are seeing a proliferation of electronic goods such as cellular phones, tablets, laptops, video game consoles and televisions.
COVID-19 lockdown measures force a very large number of adults and children to stay at home for an extended period. Therefore, the appeal of electronic devices for entertainment purposes may significantly increase.
It is important to know that the impact on physical and mental health is primary linked to the duration of exposure. However, the type of content consulted and even the time of day also have a role to play.
The impact of screens has been shown in various sleep studies. Results show that the longer the screen time, the shorter the duration of sleep, the poorer its quality and the harder it is to fall asleep. Additionally, heavy users feel more tired during the day.
Screens produce a type of wavelength called blue light, which is what negatively affects sleep. It prevents the normal secretion of a hormone called melatonin, which is responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, when people leave their devices on during the night, their sleep may be disrupted by notifications that produce light or sounds.
To promote better sleep, avoid exposure to light from screens at least two hours before you go to bed and close all of your devices during the night.
Sitting in front of TV, playing video games or navigating the Web on your smartphone from your couch are all sedentary activities that promote weight gain in adults and children.
To avoid this, it is possible to make it enjoyable and useful by doing physical exercise while you watch your favourite television series. You can also set up a stand-sit workstation. In fact, why not play video games as a family by incorporating movement or dance? Or even better, choose outdoor activities that will allow you to stay active and get some fresh air.
People who are in lockdown should consider going out every day and staying active. Some examples of activities to favour are: taking a walk, cycling, playing outdoors or doing yard work. Involving your children can provide an opportunity to reduce screen time and discover new horizons.
Overuse of screens (and reading too close in general) can also affect eye health. Among other things, it could contribute to the rapid evolution of myopia (or nearsightedness).
Screen use does not promote vitality. Additionally, since it compromises sleep quality, it can also cause fatigue, behavioural changes and decreased performance. This is another reason to limit its general use in the evening!
Evidence from studies shows that too much screen time can affect mental health in both adults and children, making them more prone to anxiety and depression, among other things.
Too much screen time can affect attention span and the ability to concentrate in both adults and children. In fact, it does not help small developing minds to learn to do one thing at a time and to undertake a task or an activity.
For some children, it has also been suggested that overexposure to screens can lead to certain difficulties, such as:
Here are a few additional recommendations for healthy screen use:
Remember that you are a role model for your child. If they see you constantly in front of a screen, they are likely to do the same. Using technology responsibly in today’s world is paramount for health... and especially during lockdown!
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