Research consistently shows that excessive “screen time” increases stress and makes it difficult for the body clock to maintain a normal sleep/wake rhythm. Additionally, overstimulation can negatively impact brain chemistry and lead to addictive behaviors. Without adult guidance and feedback, most adolescents and teenagers would spend too much time behind the screen—whether watching a YouTube video, sending a text message, browsing newsfeeds, replying on SnapChat, or posting a picture on Instagram or Facebook. While it may be accurate that “everyone is doing it” and that they “don’t want to be left out,” costs and consequences continue to exist.
Strategies for Reducing Screen Time
- Increase exposure to natural sunlight; lights and nature in general improve emotional health and wellness. Being outside is naturally calming, and sunlight restores disrupted circadian rhythms while also enhancing restorative sleep.
- Adding movement and play can reverse damages of screen-time. Exercise naturally targets insomnia, anxiety, and depression while promoting more balance among chemicals and hormones. Exercise further releases energy and negative energy, and fosters learning and overall mood regulation.
- Limit screen access in the bedroom; focus on creating a safe, dark space in the bedroom. For example, using black curtains, wearing a sleep mask, and maintaining a cooler temperature.
- Strengthen connections with others and focus on building empathy, positive touch, and overall human interaction. Eye contact and hugging leads to larger brains and more efficient brain development. Expressing oneself and feeling heard also leads to more self-regulation and higher-order executive functioning.
- Choose a screen limit. Is 60 minutes sufficient for daily screen-time use? How would you like to break down the time to stay within a window? Another strategy is reducing the brightness levels on all devices and available technologies.
- Consider making a screen time a privilege that has to be earned, such as after doing chores, homework, sports, and/or family interaction. Create screen-free days and schedule family activities that do not involve or include electronics.
Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time. After dinner, don’t directly reach for your phone or spend countless hours playing games on your phone or iPad