Mental Health Effects of Excessive Screen Time
By: Marie-Maude P. Sottile, BA Psych, MA, MACP, RP
Most of us can admit that we look at some form of a digital screen more than we do the face of our friends and loved ones. From our phones to iPad, laptops and flatscreen TVs, the size of an entire wall, screen time for most people is definitely on the rise. But what exactly are the mental health effects of this screen time?
Without realizing it, many of us are damaging our natural sleep cycle with so much screen time. Our electronic devices emit a blue light that interferes with our production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. As a result, screen time before bed will make it very hard to fall asleep. And a lack of quality sleep can cause our mood to dip and make it hard to deal with everyday stressors.
Impaired Social Skills
There is a bit of irony when it comes to screen time. We’re increasingly on our devices as a way to connect with others. And yet, we are alone when socializing digitally. Fewer real-life social interactions can lead to social anxiety and loneliness.
Poorer Emotional Regulation
Too much time on our devices affects our ability to register and process emotions. For example, exposure to aggressive or violent media can impair our emotional judgment of real-life events. It can also trigger our aggressive tendencies.
Social media platforms are where we go to compare ourselves to others. So often scrolling through our timelines, we often perceive everyone else to have their act together, to be happier, healthier and more successful. Unfortunately, doing this day after day can take a real toll on our self-esteem.
Finding Healthier Alternatives
If you think you’re spending too much time in front of your electronics, there are some steps you can take. First, you can keep TVs and all other devices out of your bedroom to ensure a good night’s rest.
Make dinner time with the family a “screen-free zone.”
And finally, you can also take up some new hobbies, connect with old friends and try to get outdoors more. Again, your mental health will thank you.