This is a very important topic and the following presentation offers all of us some serious insight into Screen Time.
Most of us are not aware of what the consequences are of spending excess time in front of a screen.
What happens to us when we get engaged with a screen in front of us?
Are we savvy enough to clock what others are up to with their screens?
Have we noticed our kids are using the screen at younger and younger ages?
Have we been too busy on our screens to notice that our teenagers are checking their screens – every waking hour?
Are we interested in what our kids get up to when we leave them to police their Screen Time?
Are we busy with our Vices online and that means lots of hours for Screen Time?
Do we indulge in Screen Time because it literally passes the time in our Boring life?
Do we like the hiding we can do behind a screen, as we know it is not Real life?
Do we find ourselves on the screen when we have others sitting at the dinner table to talk to us?
Do we prefer the comfort of our screen to human chit chat most of the time?
Do we love what Screen Time can bring us anywhere at any hour of the day?
Have we noticed Screen Time seems to pull us out of getting on with the basic routine jobs at home that need Action?
Have we noticed that the majority of people on the trains are staring at their screen for the whole journey?
Have we observed it is the new normal to check the screen even in the middle of a conversation?
Are we aware that our kids’ behaviour changes when we attempt to remove their digital device to take a break from Screen Time?
The Challenges of Screen Time
In all the popular-media hubbub and scientific data over Screen Time, it is worth noting how fast and quick the issues have evolved:
- 2007 – the first-generation iPhone was introduced
- 2007 – Netflix introduced streaming services
- 2010 – first iPad was available
Concerns Grow for Children’s Health as Screen Times soar during Covid Crisis
Experts say rise in Sleep and eyesight problems may also be linked to increased use of digital devices.
Time spent online has increased dramatically in the past year. Millions of students have been forced to switch to remote learning, while Social Media use has skyrocketed, according to Qustodio, which tracks usage of tens of thousands of devices by children aged 4 -15 in the UK, US and Spain. (2)
Can we really sit back and just accept what the experts are saying here about a rise in Sleep and eyesight problems could be due to our increased use of digital devices, which means we are hanging out with our screens way too much?
We have all been in the same situation with more online presence needed for work or study due to a global pandemic, with lockdown restrictions for the past year. But are we doing un-necessary Screen Time? That means, are we on our screens doing other stuff un-related to work or study as part of our down time, relaxation, recreational past-time or whatever else we want to call it?
100% rise in website and app visits
15% rise in average daily time spent on apps (2)
If we just take this one country’s statistic and ponder on what this means
A 100% rise in visits to websites and apps (2)
Is this relevant, purpose-full and needed, or is it going down the ill road of a momentum that is leading to more and more time on our screens?
Is this Question worth considering here and if one country is seeing this then how does this have an effect on the whole – in other words the whole world?
3 fold increase in prevalence of short-sightedness among 6 – 8 year olds in 2020
Data from 120,000 Chinese school children published in Jama Optalmology – January 2021
Among this age group – eyesight deteriorated by –0.3 diopters on average, equivalent to a 0.25 increase in prescription strength.
It means that more children age 6 – 8 – twice as many as last year are in need of glasses to achieve their best visual acuity.
It is definitely clinically significant, especially as there is evidence that a small decrease of diopter may lead to a significant change in the ability to distinguish shapes and details of objects, especially for young kids.
Dr. Jiaxing Wang at Emory University of Atlanta (2)
Before we read on – can we re-read this above one more time?
A 3 fold increase among the 6 to 8 age group in China and if we dig deep it will become apparent that these young children have access to digital devices and those screens are doing something that affects their eyesight to the point where most of them require glasses.
Our Solutions are failing us and we are not addressing WHY this is happening.
More research will no doubt tell us other age groups with excess time on screens have eye problems but then what? Where do we go and what are we going to Focus on going forward?
Is it worth asking – what is going on for these young children that causes eyesight deterioration?
What is happening in their lives and how is life at home and school?
Concern about excessive screen use extends beyond eyesight
The Millpond Sleep Clinic in London has reported a doubling in demand
We are seeing a huge rise in people coming to us about sleep problems among children.
It is not just screens that are an issue but the content. With a lot of older children, one thing parents say is they cannot get them to sleep as they have busy brains at bedtime.
Mandy Gurney – founder of the Millpond Sleep Clinic, London
We have seen a significant increase in children experiencing sleep problems since the pandemic. There would appear to be a number of factors around this, with increased screen time being one. In addition to this, there are reduced exercise opportunities increased anxiety and lack of routine.
Vicki Dawson – Chief Executive and founder of the Sleep Charity (2)
Screen Time is not just seeing a “huge rise” in sleep problems among children, but there is another issue – the content.
What are our children watching without us knowing?
WHY are we not making it our business to find out?
Do we need to first look at our own Screen Time before we can address anything?
Are we ready to get Real and Honest about the content we view on our screens?
Are we really surprised as grown-ups that our kids have “busy brains at bedtime” when we know what they get up to during the day time?
What if there is a direct correlation with our Screen Time behaviour and the quality of our Sleep?
Global Online Content Consumption Doubled in 2020 (3)
10,000 people in 5 countries – New Study (3)
New WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and Sleep for children under 5 years of age
Developed by a panel of experts, according to new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization – children under 5 must spend less time sitting watching screens or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality Sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.
The experts from WHO assessed the effects on young children of inadequate sleep and time spent sitting watching screens or restrained in chairs and prams. They also reviewed evidence around the benefits of increased activity levels.
Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing and help prevent childhood Obesity and associated diseases later in life.
Dr. Fiona Bull, Programme Manager for Surveillance and Population based prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases – World Health Organization (4)
The important interactions between physical activity, sedentary behaviour and adequate Sleep time and their impact on physical and Mental Health1 and wellbeing were recognised by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, which called for clear guidance on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep in young children.
Infants (less than 1 year):
Screen time is not recommended
2 years – sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better (4)
Screen Time may Harm Toddlers
Letting a toddler spend lots of time using screens may delay their development of skills such as language and sociability, according to a large study in Canada.
2,500 children age 2 were tracked in this evidence on the debate about how much screen time is safe for kids.
Canada and United States experts say that children should not use screens before they are at least 18 months old.
UK guidelines set no such limit
There is not enough evidence, even when you include this new study for a “direct toxic effect”.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) (5)
2011 and 2016 – mothers were surveyed about screen use and filled out questionnaires about their child’s skills and development at ages 2, 3 and 5.
17 hours of screen time per week – 2 year old children were clocking up
25 hours a week – 3 year old children
The findings, published in the JAMA Paediatrics suggest increased viewing begins before any delay in development can be seen, rather than children with poor developmental performance then going on to have more screen time.
When young children are observing screens, they may be missing important opportunities to practice and master other important skills.
In theory, it could get in the way of social interactions and may limit how much time young children spend running, climbing and practising other physical skills – although they may still eventually catch up.
Even without solid proof of harm, it still makes sense to moderate children’s screen time and make sure it does not interfere with “face-to-face interactions or family time”. With hindsight, perhaps they should have followed the children from an even younger age because it is becoming increasingly common for 12 month old babies to be watching and using screens.
Dr. Sheri Madigan – Department of Psychology, University of Calgary and the Department of Paediatrics, Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Canada. (5)
It has become increasingly common for 12 month old babies to be watching and using screens (5)
WHY on earth are we allowing babies to be using screens to the point where it is now “common”?
What is missing in our parenting skills and the raising of our children that leads to this happening?
What will be the long-term impact – call it consequences of these choices made on behalf of our babies?
Are we really busy and giving our baby a screen is far more comforting these days than to have face to face connection?
Are we noticing that our babies quieten down when they have a screen to stare at and be entertained with?
Are we trying to juggle our own Screen Time and we find it useful keeping our youngsters distracted with a screen in front of them?
Have we noticed their eye movements or how their small body responds when they are watching a screen?
Have we clocked their behaviour, if we try and take away their screens after they have been on it for some time?
The new study does not make any recommendation about how much is too much. Some of the 2 year olds were getting more than 4 hours a day or 28 hours a week of screen use, according to their mothers.
The American Association of Paediatrics’ (AAP) guidelines on Screen Time say:
- For younger children younger than 18 months, avoid use of Screen Media other than video-chatting
- Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce Digital Media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they are seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high- quality programmes. Again, parents should be watching it with their children.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits, making sure Screen Time does not get in the way of Sleep and physical activity.
The RCPCH say that adults should consider their own use of screens and set a good example.
Most experts also advise that children are not exposed to screens for an hour before bed, so that their brains have time to wind down for sleep.
The Canadian Paediatric Society goes further saying screen time for children younger than age 2 is not recommended.
The UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) put out guidelines in 2019 but sets no limits.
Evidence is weak for a threshold to guide children and parents to the appropriate level of screen time and we are unable to recommend a cut-off for children’s screen time overall. RCPCH (5)
What is clear is that many parents do not enforce the Screen Time limits suggested by the guidelines.
A study led by economist Weiwei Chen Phd – Florida International University found the following:
Children age 2 and under in United States
1997 – 1 hour, 19 minutes a day Screen Time
2014 – 3 hours 3 minutes a day Screen Time
Qualitative studies suggest several reasons for the widespread screen use
A study by Rutgers University, USA found that many parents reported lacking affordable alternative entertainment for their kids.
Others cited factors such as their own exhaustion, the need to get house jobs done and bad weather for excess Screen Time. (1)
This study is telling us something we ought to be aware of.
What is it about ‘entertainment’ that seems to be like a filler for time?
In other words, we want to fill up the time passing, with forms of entertainment and Screen Time works as they already have invested in the digital devices and as we all know there is plenty online to keep our kids amused all day, everyday, if we so choose to.
Have we considered any other ‘alternatives’ like teaching our children some responsibility with house jobs from a young age?
What would happen if they had these movements locked into their Foundation?
In other words, how would they behave if every day they had the responsibility of taking care of their home and not just expecting the older siblings or parents/carers to do everything for them?
What if we sat down with our children and explained the purpose behind doing what most call ‘Boring house chores’?
What if involving our children from a young age to support with the house jobs means there is no one Getting Away with it as everyone is equal and each role is as important as the others?
Before we bark at the kids and expect them to make changes, is it worth noting that chances are it will be wasted, as we are not truly reflecting anything through our own movements and that means we need to walk the talk?
No point opening our mouth unless we are living what we are saying.
Our children are way too smart to pay attention or lip service to anyone, if they cannot feel they are coming from a place of Truth. Best we as the elders, the adults, the parents, the guardians, the custodians and carers of these younger generations learn that if we want Real Change then it has to come from us first.
There is strong evidence that screens are not an effective teaching tool for the baby and toddler
They could displace the kinds of face-to-face interactions that actually help young kids learn.
The basic pattern that has been found in dozens of studies is that children learn better from a person who is with them face-to-face than from a person on a screen, even if it is the exact same person doing the exact same thing.
Georgene Troseth PhD – Psychologist at Vanderbilt University, USA (1)
Yes – you read correctly
We have “strong evidence” that screens are not going to help our babies and toddlers to evolve because this is not the way to go when it comes to teaching them.
The thing is we do ALL KNOW because the old fashion way before the invention of digital devices did work. How we know this is because we did not have all these new modern-day issues that give rise to eye problems, Sleep issues and all the other ill health symptoms associated with excess Screen Time.
Do we really need another research study to tell us that our children learn from human interaction and not a screen?
October 2019 report by Common Sense Media – a nonprofit organization found that
8 to 12 age group
4 hours 44 minutes every day
13 to 18 age group
7 hours 22 minutes each day
The above times using screens do NOT include schoolwork or homework.
Common Sense Media data also found a substantial disparity in media use based on socioeconomic status with 8 to 12 year old children from high income families using 1 hour 50 minutes less of media each day than kids of the same age group from low-income families. Teenagers show a similar gap.
Previous research has suggested that increased Screen Time in poorer families may be an attempt by parents to protect their children; studies in multiple countries have found that parent anxiety about neighbourhood safety and actual neighbourhood safety are linked to more screen time and less physical activity. (1)
This is interesting and worth noting here
Our definition of “poorer families” may not be one-unified and this can be said in the context of those that have more by way of comparison.
In other words, they lack the financial wealth, the standard others may have, hence the neighbourhood where they live is not the same as those who have more money.
The point is they are not really poor as they have digital devices.
The next point is – if the parents have anxiety, this needs to be questioned WHY and what is driving this to continue.
What if the kids were given proper Responsibility and that means having purpose in what they do and do not do? Of course, it would need to be applied as a team regardless of how many are living within the family unit.
This means they get the physical activity just by moving within the home and doing their chores and these Routine tasks get them in a daily rhythm and this supports them not just at home but outside too.
What if the knock-on effect is they inspire others around them to consider making similar changes, as these kids seem to be different just because there is a team working together and not a division of us and them – parents and children? No longer is Mum in her role of exhaustion and no longer is Dad ignoring his duties when it comes to household chores.
What if we valued the purpose of taking Responsibility within our home, regardless of our financial wealth and so-called status in society?
What if it matters not if we are living in a run-down area and the home is rented because we bring through our daily chores, which includes Tidying Up and cleaning everywhere, a sense of appreciation and knowing that we are the custodians of this home, regardless of size, space or anything else that our mind negatively feeds us?
What if we go out walking as a Family to not only spend time together but get the physical activity going and this helps to develop fitness?
What if we plan and prepare for school, work and the weekend where we value the importance of this, knowing it will support us to be equipped with the day(s) ahead?
What if we realised that spending time on video channels and joining the masses actually drains us, because it holds no real value and when we bring it to the dinner table, we are not able to offer anything other than the superficial stuff that it is?
What if changing the way we engage with the Family members in our home opens up to a whole new level, simply because we swap solo screen time for mouth opening Expression with others that happen to be living with us, regardless of age?
What if we cut the baby talk and toddler tantrums and replaced it with sensible talk, like they did back in the old days?
What if ALL the what if’s above are worth considering and they may just be the antidote to our attempts to protect our children? In other words, with the new way of being in the home, we get a sense of safety that comes from within us because we feel equipped to deal with whatever life brings as we now have a Foundation.
That Foundation includes eating together with meaning-full conversations and allowing everyone the space to speak and be listened to. It also deals with any resistance or difficulties that may arise from the house chores.
The Foundation has a natural flow and order going on in the home so everyone knows what they need to be doing and not doing. Nothing is left unsaid to then fester into a blow up or tension because it was un-expressed.
What if ALL of the above and it makes no difference what income is coming in or not, knocks out the comparison aspect, because there is no need to look outside and compare – just Focus on the inside of the home and what makes it Flow and value the Daily Routine, which includes the house jobs?
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Vol.9, No. 66, 2012
40 – 60% higher likelihood of high screen use for children living in neighbourhoods with the highest social and physical disorder, such as crime, graffiti and gang activity.
Valerie Carson Phd – University of Alberta | Ian Janssen PhD – Queens’s University, Kingston, Ontario (1)
Higher income families may also have more alternatives to Screen Time available, in the form of extracurricular activities and safe recreation areas.
As with young children, there are reasons for concern over large amounts of screen time in tweens and teens. Correlational studies have shown that 8 to 11 year olds who exceed Screen Time recommendations scored lower on cognitive assessments explaining about a fifth of the overall variance in cognitive scores.
The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, Vol.2, No. 11, 2018 (1)
A combination of Screen Time and too little Sleep has also been associated with heightened impulsivity in the same age group.
Paediatrics, Vol.144, No. 3, 2019 (1)
Gary Goldfield, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Ottawa, who co-authored both studies and his team have consistently found the best Mental Health2 and cognitive outcomes in teenagers who do one hour of physical activity each day, sleep 8 to 10 hours a day and use screens recreationally for less than 2 hours a day. (1)
Here we have more of what we like – research studies to tell us what we do really know with our innate sense, which is like a wise counsel.
Yes we do know that if our kids are on the screens way past what is natural and productive for their learning, health and well-being then we are going to see the consequences.
Surely we cannot be surprised if our children are not fully able to read easily because their distractions with Screen Time have a different muscle, so to speak and it is more developed.
What if this ‘muscle’ that is not needed for their learning, is being developed fast because of the type of content they are viewing online?
What if this fast-growing muscle is ensuring less and less movement and that means little to zero activity?
What if this muscle fosters a sedentary type of growing up and it then continues into teenage years and beyond?
What if this heightened impulsivity creates choices that are dis-regarding for the body and so true health and wellbeing is not on the radar?
What if this un-necessary muscle is leading to consistent behaviour that is not supporting their true evolution?
In other words, using the screen to do what we want with no boundaries or guidelines, just because the masses behave in this way is anti- evolutionary.
Future Research and Recommendations
A new longitudinal data set may help illuminate some of the outstanding questions about adolescents and Screen Time.
2015 – National Institutes of Health began funding the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. This is the largest ever longitudinal study on teen brain and behavioural development in the United States. Over 10,000 age 9 to 10 have been recruited and are being followed to young adulthood. Screen Time data are among information being collected. (1)
Research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) aimed at understanding the impact of Screen Time and Social Media on adolescent brains found in early testing significant differences in brain chemistry for kids who had at least 7 hours of Screen Time a day, compared to kids who used screens less. (6)
The differences are in the part of the brain called the cortex. This is the region responsible for processing information from our 5 senses.
Our cortex is known to get thinner as we mature. However, these children had thinner cortices earlier than other kids who spent less time on screens. Scientists are not sure what this could mean for how the children learn and behave later in life. The same data revealed that children who spent more than 2 hours a day on screens, scored lower on thinking and language skills test. (7)
The appeal of social media is incredibly compelling.
We know it triggers the reward centres in the brain. And this is true for grown ups too, not just teenagers and kids. We also know that digital technology disrupts things that are important for healthy development, so sleep, one-on-one interactions that are face-to-face, learning how to focus on one’s homework and physical activity. So we should already start to be drawing some lines around digital technology, just to protect normal and healthy development.
When high schoolers get phones that disrupts their sleep, subsequent they go on to have higher rates of Depression, higher rates of emotional fragility.
Lisa Damour – Psychologist and CBS News Contributor (6)
Let us consider what is being presented here in this section about Future Research and Recommendations.
Thee largest ever longitudinal study on teenagers’ brain development and behaviour and it started 6 years ago.
What does this tell us if we stop for one moment?
Back in 2015 our researchers were aware that how much time spent on screens will show in the brains of adolescents. This of course was one aspect and bingo, it has been confirmed significant differences in brain chemistry for children who had at least 7 hours of Screen Time a day.
How serious is it when we are told that the cortex is known to get thinner when we get older BUT children with excess Screen Time have thinner cortices?
The same data tells us that just spending more than 2 hours a day on screens affects our children as they scored lower on thinking and language skills test.
Is this a no brainer or are we going to do what we have always done and that is wait for more and more and then some more research studies to tell us what we do know?
The fact that we know Social Media triggers the reward centres in the brain speaks volumes. Our distractions have consequences and there is just no way we can Get Away with It, even though we would like to think we can.
Most of us know the reward centres make us feel good and for some it is over exercising, over eating, excess Alcohol, Drugs, sugar, TV or shopping to name a few. It gives us a feel good and Happy kind of state but it does not last, so then what?
Ask anyone with an addiction and they would say to achieve the desired result, more of the same or even something stronger is needed.
You are on the screen for a few hours every day. Before you know it you are doing more hours but it feels ok, as it’s just being borrowed from night time sleep hours. You then get into the momentum where it becomes a habit and you are on the screen more and more and the distractions lead you to content like it’s some big sweet shop and you are starving of sugar and you can choose anything and there is heaps on offer enticing you at every angle.
You like it and it gives you the buzz that you seek and once again, before you wake up you feel you have to do more Screen Time and that Social Media has got the FOMO going. Our blog on this website worth reading about Fear of Missing Out.
Now as a child or teenager we could say they do not have the awareness and for the parents who also have their screen time desires that enchant them every day to do even more, means it’s a blind spot. How on earth can you police or expect anything from the kids if you do not walk the talk consistently? Forget it – really, who on earth would listen if you are asking or demanding change but not willing to change first and be the role model, not just for the kids but the whole of the community and beyond?
How many of us have even had the thought that this excess Screen Time is no different to a drug albeit a legal activity that is never going to be viewed the same as an illicit Drug like Cocaine or Heroin. What if there is something here to ponder on now that this presentation has highlighted the ‘appeal of Social Media’?
High schoolers – let’s call them teenagers that we know have a mobile phone and Yes we know that they have it on morning, noon and night and that means throughout the night. Yes, we also know that these smartphones disrupt their sleep and so are we then surprised to learn that it is this age group that go on to have higher rates of Depression.
Can we join the dots here using our common sense because this is Simple?
Check out the stats below and let us not act surprised when these younger generations develop the side effects from excess Screen Time.
The wake up call is already presented and we are only half way through this much needed article presenting what we all need to know about Screen Time.
12 to 15 year old Screen Time 2017
99% go Online – 21 hours a week
91% watch TV – average 14.5 hours a week
83% have their own smartphone
77% play games – average 12 hours a week
74% have a Social Media profile
Children’s Internet Consumption by Age
5 – 7 years
|=||4 hours per week|
8 – 11 years
|=||8 hours per week|
12 – 15 years
|=||14 hours per week|
5 – 7 years
|=||9 hours per week|
8 – 11 years
|=||13 hours per week|
12 – 15 years
|=||21 hours per week (4)|
The Health Effects of Screen Time on Children:
A Research Round Up
63% children in U.S. spend over 2 hours a day on recreational Screen Time
This is in spite of official guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics
Screen Time is Associated with Inattention Problems in Preschoolers:
Results from the CHILD Birth Cohort Study
Tamana, Sukhpreet K.; et al. Plos One, April 2019
2,322 Canadian preschool age children – parent-reported data analysed about Screen Time and behavioural issues such as inattention and aggressiveness.
13% were exposed to 2 hours of Screen Time each day, including watching Television and DVDs, playing video games or using a computer, tablet or mobile device.
Children who were exposed to more Screen Time showed significantly increased behaviour problems at age 5.
Children who watched more than 2 hours of Screen Time a day had increased externalising (e.g., attention and behaviour), internalising (e.g., anxiety and Depression) and total behaviour problem scores compared to children who watched less than 20 minutes.
Attention problems in particular were apparent in children who had over 2 hours of Screen Time each day.
Mobile Media Device Use is Associated with Expressive Language Delay in 18 Month Old Children
Van den Heuvel, Meta; et al. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2019
893 children – parent-reported data found toddlers who use mobile devices daily are more likely to experience speech delays.
30 minutes per day increase in mobile media device use was associated with 2.3 times increased risk of parent-reported speech delay.
Association Between Screen Media Use and Academic Performance Among Children and Adolescents
Adelantado-Renau, Mireia; et al. JAMA Pediatrics, September 2019
This publication consists of both a systematic review and meta-analysis of research on the relationship between Screen Time and academic performance. The authors identified 58 studies to include in the systematic review, which provides a summary of the qualitative effects of Screen Time; 30 of these studies were included in the subsequent meta-analysis, which the authors used to calculate the effect size of Screen Time on academic performance.
480,479 participants age 4 – 18 included in the 58 studies systematic review
The articles were published between 1958 and 2018 and represent the efforts of researchers around the world. The studies looked at computer, Internet, mobile phone, Television and Video Game use individually, as well as overall Screen Time. Outcomes of interest included school grades, performance on academic achievement tests, academic failure data or self-reported academic achievement or school performance.
The key finding from the systematic review was that in most of the papers reviewed, as time spent watching television increased – academic performance suffered.
106,653 participants from the larger sample, was the focus of a meta-analysis
When the authors analysed the data by type of activity, they found Television watching was linked to poorer overall academic performance as well as poorer language and mathematics performance, separately. Time spent playing video games was negatively linked with composite academic performance scores, too. Analysing the data further by age, the authors found that time spent with screens had a larger negative association with academic performance for adolescents than children. (8)
Does anyone bother to take note of official guidelines when it comes to Screen Time?
This is serious – we have the American Academy of Pediatrics informing us what is best for our children’s health but we are choosing not to pay attention.
If we as parents or carers of children observe behaviour issues like lack of attention and aggressiveness, would it be wise to explore this deeper and ask more Questions relating to how and why this is occurring and what can we do and not do that would bring about some Real Changes?
OR do we continue ‘business as usual’ which means we can have our comfort of Screen Time maxed up daily, as it gives us time out and keeps the kids quiet doing whatever they choose to do, as long as they are not noisy, as that suits us?
Once again we have evidence that there is SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS AT AGE 5 for children who are exposed to more Screen Time.
Where will this behaviour problem end up and have we got the resources to wait for more longitudinal studies or can we do our own Real life observational studies in our home, on the street and at the supermarket as Screen Time is everywhere?
It would be a wise move to read our article on this website about Video Gaming. We have done the research and presented the facts. Imagine this type of Education and line of questioning on the classroom agenda in the future.
We could also introduce the whole Sleep category on this website so our kids from day dot understand the importance and value of what sleep is really about and that no Solutions will sort out what the body naturally requires every day.
We as a world seem to have very little Focus on teaching our children about how to live human life and live it well – where seeking stimulants to distract, disturb and numb them from their sensitivity, which is there when they are young, is not on the radar.
Screen Time is Associated with Adiposity and Insulin Resistance in Children
Nightingale, Claire M.; et al. Archives of Disease in Childhood, July 2017.
Study looks at the relationship between Screen Time and Type 2 Diabetes risk factors, like being severely overweight among –
- 4,495 school children between age 9 and 10
Those that spent over 3 hours daily on Screen Time were less lean and more likely to show signs of insulin resistance, which can contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes, compared with their peers who reported 1 hour or less of Screen Time each day. Black children were more likely to spend over 3 hours daily on devices compared with their white and south Asian peers.
Digital Media and Sleep in Childhood and Adolescence
LeBourgeois, Monique K.; et al. Pediatrics, November 2017
90% of the studies included in a systematic review of research on Screen Time in children and teenagers found adverse associations between Screen Time and Sleep health – primarily because of later bedtimes and less time spent sleeping. Delving deeper, underlying mechanisms include “time displacement”, psychological stimulation from content consumed and impacts of screen light on sleep patterns. These kids are tired. The previously cited research review also indicates that a majority of studies saw a relationship between tiredness and Screen Time. (8)
Are we all aware of a study that found Social Media use 30 minutes before bed is associated with disturbed sleep among young adults (9)
WHY have we ignored the research studies that tell us Screen Time at night has a bad effect on our sleep quality?
WHY are we ignoring the majority of previous studies indicating a link between tiredness and Screen Time?
Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents after 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time
Twenge, Jean M.; et al. Clincial Psychological Science, January 2018
506,820 adolescents in U.S. between 2010 and 2015
The data on Screen Time use and Mental Health1 issues came from two nationally representative surveys of students in grades 8 through 12. Suicide rates were calculated from national statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Fatal Injury Reports.
The analysis finds a “clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes (suicidal ideation – that is thinking about suicide and suicide attempts) and non-screen activities with lower levels.”
48% who used devices for over 5 hours each day reported at least one suicide-related outcome.
29% for those who used devices for just one hour per day
Overall, during the time studied, Suicide rates, depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes increased. Girls accounted for most of the rise – they were more likely to experience depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes than boys; they also experienced stronger effects of Screen Time on Mental Health1. In particular, girls had a significant correlation between Social Media use and depressive symptoms. (8)
This is serious
We have the evidence here, so what are our plans?
Are we going to listen up and take note or just ignore all of this hoping it will not affect us?
Just to recap here – there is a clear pattern which links Screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.
Girls experience stronger Screen Time effects on Mental Health2?
Girls also had a significant link between Social Media use and depressive symptoms.
What Children and Young People think about Screen Time
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – January 2019
- 88% said screen time had a negative impact on their health
- 5 hours were spent on screen before falling asleep
- 55% spend time in front of a screen during the day
- 46% spend time in front of a screen during the night
- Most screen time is spent on a mobile phone
- Hurts your eyes and stresses you out
- Keeps you awake and loss of social connection (10)
50% age 10 own a Smartphone in the UK
According to a report by Media regulator Ofcom, half of UK’s 10 year olds, owned a smartphone in 2019. (11)
The report called Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2019 provides evidence on Media use, attitudes and understanding among children and young people age 5-15, as well as about the media access and use of young children aged 3-4.
8 – 11 years old
45% who own a mobile phone allowed to take it to bed
12 – 15 years old
74% who own a mobile phone allowed to take it to bed
Children experience the same level of social pressures online as they do in ‘real life’ (12)
40% age 12 to 15 who use social media say they feel pressure to be popular on these sites or apps all or most of the time.
25% age 8 to 15 say people are mean to each other on Social Media all or most of the time.
50% age 12 to 15 feel it is not ok for people to be able to say what they want online if it is hurtful to others.
30% are unsure, suggesting a degree of uncertainty around what is and is not acceptable.
The effects of this social pressure were evident in Media Lives research by Ofcom. Children in the study were increasingly wary about the content they post. Many were so keen that nothing should detract from their online ‘image’ that they keep their profiles virtually empty by deleting old pictures, or those that don’t have enough likes.
This trend has evolved over time but was more pronounced in 2019 with some of the children’s profiles featuring no online images at all.
The Media Lives study also shows an increase in the use of filtering apps among children. Some children in the study are conscious about their physical appearance online and are using dedicated face-editing apps to alter how they appear to others.
Some older girls have moved away from using ‘fun’ or novelty filters towards using more hyper-real or aesthetic filters that could completely change the shape of their face and many of the children in the study appeared to be familiar with the idea of people using these filtering apps to alter the way their face or body appeared. (12)
If the large majority (88%) of children are saying that Screen Time has had a negative impact on their health, what are we doing carrying on in the same way?
WHY are our kids spending the last part of their waking day on a screen before falling asleep?
Why are most of us choosing to ignore what the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health are saying?
Are we really Smart if half of our kids have a smartphone by the time they are 10 years of age?
What do we have coming up for our children in the future if most Screen Time is spent on a mobile phone?
How serious is it if our children are experiencing social pressures online and offline (real life)?
How dangerous and sad is it that our children are keen to keep their online image profile with the goal to get “likes”?
How will our children behave in later life if they are using filtering apps at such a young age?
How will our children change as they grow up if apps to filter their face and body appearance are being used?
How will this end up if kids are conscious about their physical appearance to others?
Children’s Experience of Offline versus Online Bullying
20% age 8 to 15 say they have been bullied in some way
Ofcom’s research study shows that among older children, the incidence of bullying is consistent between ‘real life’ and online.
There is a correlation between the time spent on Social Media and the experience of being bullied.
12 – 15 age group who spend more than 10 hours a week on Social Media are twice as likely to say they have been bullied through this platform than those who are on it for less than 10 hours a week.
Although the likelihood of being bullied in ‘real life’ is similar to online, the more time a child spends on Social Media, the higher their chance of becoming a target of bullying. (12)
Yes you read correctly – there is a connection between children’s time spent on Social Media and the experience of being bullied.
Again to re-iterate – the more time our kids spend on Social Media (screen time), the higher the chance of becoming a target for bullying. Do we all get this?
Negative Online Experiences and Coping Strategies
The experience of seeing hateful content online is increasing
- 58% of those that saw hateful content in the past year, chose to ignore it
- 39% took some form of action
- 16% blocked the person who shared or made the comments
- 14% would report it to the website
- 10% would either share it with friends to say it was wrong or to comment on it, thereby inadvertently giving the hateful content greater exposure.
Staying Safe Online
Children are seeing more hateful online content than they used to and several children in this Media Lives research reported seeing violent and other disturbing content online.
50% age 12 – 15 say they have seen something hateful about a particular group of people in the last year, up from one third in 2016.
40% took some form of action but the majority ignored it.
Despite high awareness of online reporting functions, only half who had seen something worrying or nasty reported it.
The way that children deal with such content varies by age and gender
96% age 8 – 11 who go online are more likely to tell someone than age 12 – 15
Although both age groups are more likely to tell a parent than to tell anyone else
Older children are more likely than younger children to tell someone in authority about the content or the websites themselves.
94% girls are more likely than boys to tell someone and more likely to tell a parent. (12)
The amount of young phone owners doubled between the ages of 9 and 10, which Ofcom dubbed “the age of digital independence”.
- 24% of 3 and 4 year olds had their own tablet
- 15% of them are allowed to take it to bed
3,200 interviews with children and parents – 2019 UK study was based on.
The mobile phone is the device of choice for children. I am conscious that for these children who have never known a world without the Internet, in many respects their online and offline worlds are indistinguishable.
Yih-Choung Teh – Strategy and Research Group Director at Ofcom (11)
None of us know for sure where this will all end up.
If the trend continues, we can see patterns emerging and that means chances are more and more younger ages will own a tablet and not just 24% as it was back in 2019.
Let us not Judge or critique our modern-day tech devices, which give us access to almost anything we seek and desire via a screen.
Let us not be surprised when we have a bigwig from the Office of Communications in the UK (a government approved regulatory authority) saying that our children choose a mobile phone device and this has led to their ‘offline and online worlds as indistinguishable’. (11)
Children’s Online and Viewing Habits
Own a Smartphone
5% age 5 to 7
37% age 8 to 11
83% age 12 to 15
Own a Tablet
24% age 3 to 4
37% age 5 to 7
49% age 8 to 11
59% age 12 to 15
Watch Video on Demand | Subscription Services
65% age 3 to 4
73% age 5 to 7
78% age 8 to 11
88% age 12 to 15
Have a Social Media Profile
4% age 5 to 7
21% age 8 to 11
71% age 12 to 15
Play Games (times per week)
4 hours 42 minutes age 3 to 4
6 hours 18 minutes age 5 to 7
9 hours 30 minutes age 8 to 11
11 hours 36 minutes age 12 to 15 (11)
We could skip the above section and call it just some numbers on a page
We could dismiss it as just more stats with some detail from the researchers
We could look closely and examine the different age groups and devices used
We could ask why so many aged 5 to 11 children watch video on demand
We could ask how come the 12 to 15 age group have high Screen Time use.
We could ask why this older age group seem to spend so much time online.
We could ask what is the meaning and purpose of playing Games for long hours.
Associations between Screen Time and Lower Psychological Well-being among Children and Adolescents
Evidence from a Population-Based Study
A growing proportion of children and adolescents’ leisure time is spent with screens including smartphones, tablets, Gaming consoles and Televisions, raising concerns about the effect of Screen Time on well-being among parents, health professionals and educators.
These concerns have prompted physician organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recommend that parents limit children’s daily screen time with specific time limits for preschool children and a general suggestion of limiting time on screen for older children and adolescents.
The World Health Organization have included gaming disorder in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (WHO, 2018) (13)
Associations between Screen Time and poor health outcomes such as Obesity and lack of exercise have been well documented.
e.g., Dumuid et al., 2017; Poitras et al., 2017; Chiasson et al., 2016; de Jong et al., 2013; (13)
Do we need to be reminded or is this something worth considering with a stop moment? We have well documented research and that means evidence – the kind we like to wait for which tells us the same thing over and over again and then suggests we wait for more research.
When are we going to take on board and make the necessary changes if our use of Screen Time is having a direct effect on our health and that means poor health due to lack of exercise (movement) which we all know can lead to Obesity?
Sitting around in front of a screen with little or no movement will have an arrangement of side effects. Carry on reading and there is more spelling it out saying – we cannot just use our screens as there are consequences.
44,734 children and adolescents 2 to 17 years of age in the U.S. in the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) conducted in 2016 by the U.S. Census Bureau. Participants were the caregivers of these children.
Households were contacted by mail at random to identify those with this age group
In every household, one child was randomly selected to be the subject of the survey
The survey was administered either online or on paper, with an oversampling of children with special health care needs.
40.7% was the response rate. Data are publicly available on the NSCH website.
- 2 – 17 age group
More hours of Screen Time associated with lower well-being
- High users show LESS self-control and emotional stability
- Twice as many high users of screens had Anxiety or Depression diagnosis
Across a diverse array of well-being measures, including self-control measures, relationships with caregivers, emotional stability, diagnoses of anxiety and Depression and Mental Health2 treatment, psychological well-being was progressively lower from –
1 hour a day of Screen Time to 7 or more hours a day of Screen Time, particularly among adolescents. (13)
Effects of Screen Time on the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Adolescents: a Systematic Review of Reviews
13 studies were identified
Moderately strong evidence for associations between Screen Time and greater Obesity/adiposity (severe or morbid obesity) and higher depressive symptoms; moderate evidence for an association between Screen Time and higher energy intake, less healthy diet quality and poorer quality of life.
We found weak evidence that small amounts of daily screen use is not harmful and may have some benefits.
What we are being told is that the evidence is weak when it comes to small amounts of screen use not being harmful.
Could it be possible then that the reason the evidence is not strong is because even a small amount of screen use is actually harm-full?
There is evidence that higher levels of Screen Time is associated with a variety of health harms for children and young people, with evidence strongest for adiposity, unhealthy diet, depressive symptoms and quality of life.
Evidence to guide policy on safe children and young people Screen Time exposure is limited. (12)
This conclusion summarises it for us and we all know that higher levels of Screen Time is going on everywhere and even more so since we have a world pandemic with lockdown restrictions.
Wales – Teenagers lost Sleep and no Breakfast 22 May 2019
Late nights on mobile phones and computer screens –
problems sleeping and then skipping breakfast the next day
This is the life of many teenagers in Wales drawn from what is said to be the largest study of its kind.
104,000 pupils – health and well-being researched by Cardiff University
Going to Bed Late
- More boys are going to bed later than girls on a school night and the difference widens as the proportion rises with age.
- There is an increase in pupils going to bed after 11pm as they get older
- More from poorer families also reported usually going to bed after 11pm
On Screens too Late
- 33% of boys and 28% girls report still being on their mobile phones or computers after 11pm on school nights.
- 25% are using screens after midnight
- 46% age 15 to 16 use devices after 11pm
Problematic Social Media Use
- 20% girls and 15% boys are classified as “problematic” social media users
- Research leaders say too much Social Media use outside children’s immediate circle of friends could lead to anxiety and Mental Health2 issues and those young people will spend less time doing other things and escape more from the world around them.
Breakfasts – How Many Miss Out
- 22% of children skip breakfast completely
- More children from poorer families also miss breakfasts
- Not having breakfast can have quite a lot of impact – it means you are more likely to be snacking throughout the day, more sugar and a quick carb fix. For school, it means you concentrate less, you are more irritable and your whole learning experience is compromised.
Professor Simon Murphy – Director of Cardiff University Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (15)
How much more do we need in the form of research studies to label the point that using screens at night affects us All and not just children and teenagers?
Do we need to Question what on earth is going on in our life if we are using screens in excess at any time and in particular night time?
We do know that this current way of living where Screen Time is a big part of our day and night comes at a price, so what do we plan to do in order to make some sensible changes to support our well-being?
Students Concerned about Health Effects of Increased Screen Time
All my entertainment and social interaction come from texting my friends.
When I decided to check my screen time, I realised it was way too high.
Comment from student who has screen time as high as 9 hours a day (16)
Many students say they have seen a dramatic increase in device usage since moving off campus due to pandemic. Screen Time that students regularly devote to Social Media and Gaming has been compounded by virtual classes, club meetings and social events held on Zoom.
Excess Screen Time can have negative impacts on Mental Health1, shorten attention spans, disrupt Sleep patterns and cause eye strain.
Delaney Ruston – Primary Care Doctor and creator of documentary “Screenagers” (16)
My Screen Time has doubled since the start of the pandemic to an average of 8 hours on the phone daily. At the beginning, I got Headaches after staring at screens for extended periods of time. It is so bad, I will just scroll through Social Media and play Games and hope that it makes me sleepy but it never does.
Freshman Student – Age 14
There is mixed research about blue light filters from Digital devices being harmful to the eyes.
Exposure to natural sunlight has been shown to help prevent vision problems.
Delaney Ruston – Primary Care Doctor and creator of documentary “Screenagers” (16)
It is serious when we have students using Screen Time for 8 or 9 hours to socially interact and in the name of entertainment. Students are supposedly the Intelligent ones amongst us and yet they are not concerned with having Headaches but saying it is so bad and then go on Social Media and play Games in the hope it will help them Sleep and of course it does not.
If we are entertaining our minds playing games or texting for social interaction then we can expect to have poor quality Sleep because the excess time spent on screens means we have a momentum. This means we can physically stop but it’s like an internal engine that just cannot be switched off and it wires us up to stay stimulated. We all know that to fall asleep we need to be rested and this is not possible if we are on Social Media, Gaming or finding entertainment through texting for hours and hours.
A wise movement here would be to read our Sleep category on this website and then go to Video Gaming and Headaches. Those articles are well worth reading and considering as there are many common sense questions being presented.
Cutting Screen Time may Reverse Sleep Problems in Teenagers
Recent studies have indicated that exposure to too much evening light, particularly the blue light emitted from screens on smartphones, tablets and computers can affect the brain’s clock and the production of the Sleep hormone melatonin, resulting in disrupted Sleep time and quality.
Limiting exposure to blue-light emitting devices such as phones and laptops in the evening for just a week can help teenagers improve their sleep quality and reduce symptoms of fatigue, lack of concentration and bad mood, a study has found.
The lack of Sleep does not just cause immediate symptoms of tiredness and poor concentration but can also increase the risk of more serious long-term health issues such as Obesity, Diabetes and Heart disease.
Other studies have suggested that Sleep deprivation related to Screen Time may affect children and adolescents more than adults, but no studies have fully investigated how real-life exposure is affecting sleep in adolescents at home and whether it can be reversed.
Researchers from Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience, the Amsterdam UMC and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, investigated the effects of blue light exposure on adolescents at home.
4 hours Screen Time per day – more symptoms of Sleep loss and 30 minutes later sleep onset and wake up times.
Blocking both blue light with glasses and screen abstinence resulted in sleep onset and wake up times occurring 20 minutes earlier and a reduction in reported symptoms of sleep loss in participants, after just one week.
Adolescents increasingly spend more time on devices with screens and sleep complaints are frequent in this age group.
This randomised controlled trial shows simply that these sleep complaints can be easily reversed by minimising evening screen use or exposure to blue light. Based on our data, it is likely that adolescent sleep complaints and delayed sleep onset are at least partly mediated by blue light from screens.
Dirk Jan Stenvers – Amsterdam UMC (University Hospital) (17)
If we just read the title of this section – could this be true?
What would common sense say to us if we ask is this possible?
Common sense would say it is a no brainer, night time is for sleeping. Back in the olden days without screens they did not have all these modern day problems because when the sun goes down and night falls, we go to Sleep – end of the day.
There is no continuing, over-riding, staying up late to entertain and stimulate us because we had work to do the next day, so we all had a Responsibility.
Do we really need another scientific research study to tell us about the blue light coming from screens affecting our brain and the production of melatonin – the hormone which we need for sleep or can we take note of common sense?
What Staring at a Screen All Day does to the Brain and Body
Humans did not evolve to stare at bright screens all day.
Our eyes are suffering the consequences.
58% who work on computers experience Computer Vision Syndrome (18)
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)
Also referred to as Digital Eye Fatigue, CVS has been described by the American Optometry Association as an eye and vision problem seen in long term computer, tablet and cell phone users. The most frequent symptoms ae eye fatigue, Headache, blurred vision and dry eyes. It can also include double vision, head and neck pain.
Eye dryness is now a very common disease and it affects daily activities by decreasing the quality of life due to its symptoms. In addition, it has also become an important public health problem because of the increased treatment costs (19)
- Blurred vision
- Neck and back pain (18)
Screen Use and Dry Eyes
Digital Screen Use and Dry Eye: A Review
Prolonged and continuous daily use of digital screens or visual display terminals (VDTs) has become the norm in occupational, educational and recreational settings.
An increased global dependence on VDTs has led to a rise in associated visual complaints, including eye strain, ocular dryness, burning, blurred vision and irritation to name a few. The principal causes for VDT-associated visual discomfort are abnormalities with oculomotor/vergence systems and dry eye. This review focuses on the latter, as advances in research have identified symptomology and ocular surface parameters that are shared between prolonged VDT users and dry eye, particularly the evaporative subtype. Several mechanisms have been implicated in VDT-associated dry eye, including blink anomalies, damaging light emission from modern devices and inflammatory changes.
The presence of pre-existing dry eye has also been explored as an inciting and exacerbating factor. Associations between digital screens and dry eye, mechanisms of damage and therapeutic options are being reviewed in the hope to raise awareness, with the goal of reducing the global morbidity and economic impact of screen-associated visual disability.
Overview of Dry Eye
Dry eye (DE) is a heterogeneous, multifactorial disease characterised by a combination of:
Ocular surface symptoms – dryness, pain, poor or fluctuating vision
Signs – reduced tear break-up time, decreased tear production and corneal staining.
The dry eye “umbrella” is often subdivided into categories based on underlying contributors which include aqueous tear deficiency, evaporative dry eye that is often seen with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), anatomical abnormalities – e.g., lagophthalmos (inability to close the eye lids properly), conjunctivochalasis (excess fold of conjunctival skin that accumulate between the globe of the eye and the margins of the eyelid) and nerve dysfunction (peripheral or central). To complicate matters, contributors can co-exist in an individual patient and observed ocular surface and tear parameters are often disconnected from patient-reported symptoms. (18)
Evaporative type of dry eye disease is the most common (17)
In addition, factors beyond the ocular surface have been associated with dry eye symptoms and/or signs including blink rate and systemic comorbidities – e.g., immune disorders, Diabetes, chronic pain conditions.
Furthermore, factors outside the body can affect dry eye, including:
- Environmental factors both indoors and outdoors – humidity, air pollution,
- Exposures – light sources
- Activities – prolonged reading (20)
Dry eye disease is a common condition wherein the eyes are unable to remain wet. This can cause the eyes to feel uncomfortable and may result in vision problems. Currently, there is no permanent cure for dry eye but there are a number of options to manage and reduce the symptoms.
Many factors can contribute to dry eye, such as the tears drying too quickly, the body not producing enough tears, eyelid problems, the use of certain drugs and some environmental factors.
Typically, treatment involves using eye drops or another medication to keep the eyes moist.
Dry eye disease, also known as dry eye syndrome or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, occurs when the eyes do not stay wet due to problems with the tears. This may cause the eyes to become drier, which can lead to discomfort and in some cases, result in problems with vision.
In 2017, researchers recognised that dry eye disease is a disease of the surface of the eyes, with many factors contributing to the condition.
In particular, the authors noted that dry eye is the result of the tear film not working optimally.
Craig JP, et al., TFOS DEWS II Report Executive Summary, The Ocular Surface (2017) (21)
The tear film protects and lubricates the surface of the eye and is important for good vision.
It has 3 layers:
- Outer Layer – this is oily, reduces tear evaporation and helps spread the tear film across the surface of the eye.
- Middle Layer – this watery layer is a large constituent of tears. It helps wash away foreign objects as grit.
- Inner Layer – this sticky layer coats the cornea and helps spread the water layer. It also helps keep the tear film stuck to the surface of the eye. (21)
Blinking spreads tears across the eyes, which then drain into the nose. Several glands and systems are involved in keeping the tear film in its optimal state.
Research suggests that dry eye disease occurs when the tear film is no longer in a state of equilibrium. This can happen if the body does not produce enough tears.
For example – if one of the tear layers does not work or spread out properly. (21)
Shimazaki, J. (November 2018). Definition and Diagnostic Criteria of Dry Eye Disease: Historical Overview and Future Directions. IOVS Arvo Journals
Eye dryness is more common in elderly post-menopausal women and it is becoming more frequent as the life span of people increases. (19)
USA – according to the National Eye Institute, dry eye can occur at any age.
16 million individuals have dry eye
4.88 million age 50 and over affected by dry eye – American Academy of Opthalmology
- 2 million are females
- 68 million are males
According to the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO), dry eye is more common in older adults. (21)
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Symptoms of dry eye can include:
- a stinging or burning feeling in the eyes
- blurred vision or sensitivity to light
- difficulty or discomfort when opening the eyes
- a feeling of pressure in the eyes
- a feeling that something is in the eyes (21)
The Relationship between Screen Use and Dry Eye
Dry eye signs also related to screen use in young children
713 female undergraduates in Saudi Arabia – a study reported ocular symptoms:
- 58.3% burning
- 51.5% dryness
- 44.6% blurred vision
- 40.8% redness (20)
Common Cause of Dry Eye
Normally, the glands above the eyes that produce tears keep the eyes wet. Dry eye is usually the result of tears not working correctly.
For example – this could either mean that tears are evaporating too quickly or that the quality of tears is poor.
Females are more likely to have dry eye disease. This is due to hormonal changes that can affect tear production. People’s bodies also tend to make fewer tears as they age, so dry eye disease is also more common in older adults.
Some other risk factors or common causes of dry eye disease may include:
- some skin conditions on or near the eyelids
- deficiency in Vitamin A or omega-3 fatty acids
- laser eye surgery
- wearing contact lenses
- spending a long time looking at screens, as this can reduce blinking
- allergies that affect the eyes
- some long-term conditions, such as Diabetes and Sjogren’s disease
- the gland that produces the oily layer not operating properly
- environmental factors such as smoke, wind or dry air
- some medications, including treatments for Depression and High Blood Pressure (21)
Computer Vision Syndrome
The 21st century has given way to a global society increasingly dependent on a variety of technologies in personal, occupational and institutional settings. This has led to a rising daily exposure to digital screens with an accompanying rise in the prevalence of ocular complaints. Although many of these ocular symptoms fall under the purview of dry eye, significant discussion has been had in the realm of a related condition – Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
50% to 90% of ALL computer users experience symptoms of CVS
CVS or digital eye strain refers to a spectrum of clinical vision-related and muscular symptoms perceivable resulting from prolonged and continuous use of visual display terminals (VDTs), such as computers, smartphones, Televisions and tablets.
Different display device types are associated with unique profiles of visual effects, possibly due to differences in viewing positioning (distance and angle), patterns of use, screen resolution and contrast, image refresh rates, screen glare, colour spectra and other digital features.
Common visual symptoms in Computer Vision Syndrome include:
- Sensations of Burning
- Asthenopia (eye strain)
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Epiphora (excess watering of the eye)
- Hyperemia (increase in blood flow to the eyes)
- Blurred vision
- Glare sensitivity
- Transient deceptions in colour perception
Other extraocular complaints associated with CVS frequently include:
- Musculoskeletal pain in the neck, back and shoulders
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Venous thromboembolism* (VTE)
- Higher prevalence for developing dermatologic conditions
eczema | rosacea seborrheic | dermatitis
Given the global burden of screen-induced visual discomfort, identifying and managing its underlying causes can help improve physical wellbeing and workplace productivity. (20)
*Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition in which a blood clot forms most often in the deep veins of the leg, groin or arm (known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and travels in the circulation, lodging in the lungs, known as pulmonary embolism (PE).
DVT and PE together are known as VTE –
a dangerous and potentially deadly medical condition (22)
Asthenopia (eye strain) is one of the most common computer-associated ocular complaints
55% to 81% of Visual Display Terminal users experience eye strain
Regular users of VDT have decreased baseline tear volume compared to non-VDT users. A *study in Turkey found that this decreases further after a work day.
*Doguizi S, Sekeroglu MA, Inanc M, Yilmazbas P. Evaluation of tear meniscus dimensions using anterior segment optical coherence tomography in video terminal display workers.
Clin Exp Optom 2019; 102.478-484 (20)
VDT Use is Associated with Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (20)
What is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?
The normal tears of the eye are made up of 3 layers:
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction is when the glands that make the oily layer of the tears are not working properly and this allows the watery layer of the tears to dry out.
The meibomian glands are inside the eyelids and the openings are on the edge of the eyelids. The outer oily layer stops the watery layer of the tears from drying out. When the glands become blocked, the oily part of the tears cannot be released. This causes the watery tears to dry up more quickly, which results in the eye becoming dry and can make it feel sore. It is not usually a serious condition but it can cause discomfort and sometimes blurry vision. If it is not treated, the glands may stop working permanently.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction can cause dry eye. It is common to have a combination of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, dry eye and blepharitis (inflammation of the eye lids).
- The eyelids can become sore and swollen as the glands become blocked
- As the eyes become dry, they can feel itchy and gritty as if there is something in the eye
- The eyes may be red and if they are sore, they can be watery too, which can cause vision to become blurry
- Treatment involves releasing the oily tears from the glands using hot compresses.
- Use a face cloth or cotton pads – soak in hot water (not boiling)
- Close your eyes and hold the hot cloth on to your eyelids
- Wet the cloth again with hot water and keep applying the compress for 5 minutes
- Repeat daily until the condition improves
To stop the glands from blocking again, it is recommended to continue the treatment
- Gently massaging the eyelids can support to release tears
- Heat bags are specifically designed for this condition – check with local optometrist
- If the hot compress treatment or heat bags do not work, you may need further treatment
Your optometrist would be able to advise (23)
VDT Users Have Abnormalities in Blink Rate
Visual Display Terminal Use can affect blink rate
Specifically, a reduced mean blink rate and incomplete blink motions have been observed during computer use.
Reduction in blink frequency and blink amplitude have also been associated with dry eye symptoms in VDT users.
Inadequate blinking plays an important role in the loss of tear film homeostasis during VDT use.
Treating the Underlying Components of Dry Eye to Prevent Compound Damage
The treatment of dry eye begins with artificial tears (AT) of various composition and viscosity. Individuals are advised to apply a lubricant eye drop periodically throughout the day if they experience ocular surface discomfort associated with VDT use.
Although effective in combating signs and symptoms of dry eye, a study in Spain showed that topical lubricants may not prevent decreases in VDT-associated blink rate. This supports a central neural mechanism for VDT-associated reduction in blink rate, influence by such factors as the difficulty required to complete the task, that may persist after treatment with artificial tears.
Beyond artificial tears, given associations between VDT use, inflammation and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, anti-inflammatories (e.g., topical cyclosporine) and lid therapies (e.g., antibiotics and intense pulse light therapy) can also be considered in appropriate individuals. The purpose of these interventions is to decrease the severity of pre-existing dry eye and minimize factors contributing to VDT-associated ocular discomfort. However, more work needs to be done to demonstrate that therapies often used to treat dry eye have an effect on VDT-associated dry eye.
Improving VDT Device Position
With a goal of reducing asthenopia and symptoms of ocular discomfort while optimising comfort, *studies have determined a preferred VDT viewing distance of 90cm and slight downward gaze of 10 degree with some personal variations.
*Jaschinski W, Heueer H, Kylian H. Preferred position of visual displays relative to the eyes:
a field study of visual strain and individual differences. Ergonomics 1998; 41:1034-1049
*Jaschinski W, Heueer H, Kylian H. A procedure to determine the individually comfortable position of visual displays relative to the eyes. Ergonomics 1999; 42:535-549
Important to Note: Interpersonal variability is expected. Users are encouraged to evaluate various working distances and inclinations to see whether this can reduce ocular discomfort symptoms.
Limiting Screen Time and Blink Modifications
With increasing evidence of the deleterious effect of continuous VDT usage, the obvious Solution, although often impractical would be to limit prolonged Screen Time.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Optometric Association make such recommendations as resting from computer work for 15 minutes, every 2 hours of use and the 20-20-20 rule. This means after every 20 minutes of computer viewing, refocus on an object over 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Optimising Workplace Humidity
Given the long hours spent by VDT users in an occupational or home setting, the indoor environment may play a role in development of dry eye. Alterations in humidity have been associated with dry eye, particularly in the indoor setting.
Both low and high humidity have been associated with dry eye, likely due to low humidity causing tear evaporation and thinning of the tear film and high humidity environments favouring the survival, transmission and growth of micro-organisms. Optimal recommended humidity ranges from 40% – 55%, primarily due to effects on upper airway health and respiratory function.
Using a humidifier has been found to modestly alleviate dry eye signs and symptoms in VDT users and may be particularly useful in workplaces with low relative humidity. (20)
Steps for Computer Eyestrain Relief for People with Chronic Dry Eye
The amount of time spent staring at a computer screen can affect our eyes and worsen dry eye symptoms. Work obligations can often prohibit us from limiting the time needed to spend in front of a computer.
Activities that demand intense concentration can result in eyestrain and dryness
66% less frequently a person blinks while using a computer
Blinking is important because it helps spread hydrating substances like tears and mucus across our eyes. If we blink less, the tears in our eyes have more time to evaporate, resulting in red and dry eyes.
The brightness of the monitor reflecting on to our eyes can also contribute to dry and tired eyes. By the end of a workday, we may find we are squinting to see what we could previously see more easily.
Signs of Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as Digital Eyestrain include:
- Blurry vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain (24)
To reduce eye dryness and strain, here are some recommendations from a popular health website.
As with everything, we as individuals need to discern what is being presented and not just assume it will work because of where it is coming from.
Adjust your Glasses
If you wear glasses, talk to your eye doctor about anti-reflective coatings or special lenses.
These can help to minimize glare on your computer screen and keep your eyes feeling comfortable. Also make sure you have the correct prescription glasses. Otherwise your eyes will strain to see the screen.
Eye drops can ensure your eyes stay lubricated while using a computer. You can purchase over the counter (OTC) artificial tears that you can use when your eyes feel dry.
If OTC drops and adjustments to your environment do not seem to help, talk to your eye doctor.
They may recommend prescription eye drops for chronic dry eye.
Computer Monitor Adjustments
Proper placement of the monitor on your desk can help reduce glare and promote a more ergonomic and comfortable experience.
If possible, switch to a larger monitor. This will usually make the words and images easier to see. Also enlarge the font whenever possible, to make reading easier.
Position your monitor about 20 to 26 inches away from your head. The monitor should be placed at such a height that you are looking at the middle of the screen. You should not have to hunch over or sit up excessively straight to see the computer screen well.
It can be helpful to set your monitor just below eye level to reduce the surface area of your eyes that are exposed to air. This can help reduce tear evaporation that can lead to dry eyes.
Use a glare filter over your computer to reduce any unwanted light that can make it difficult to see. Also note that flatter screens tend to have less glare.
Adjust your computer’s refresh rate to between 70 and 85 Hz.
Most computer screens will refresh at a rate of 60 Hz. However, this speed can cause a flickering or rolling of the screen.
Adjust the brightness or your computer monitor as well. If a website with a white background is so bright that it looks like a light source – it is too bright. But if the monitor appears grey and dull, this is a sign that your monitor should be brighter.
The layout of the location where you use a computer can contribute to eyestrain.
It is best if your computer monitor is away from the window. This means it is not in front of a window or behind one.
This reduces the glare from outside light sources that can further irritate and dry your eyes.
If your desk must be up against a window, get blinds or curtains to help reduce the glare.
Switching out overhead fluorescent lights in favour of lamps can help to reduce overhead glare that can make it difficult for your eyes to focus. Adjusting light to a lower wattage or even a softer filter can help to relax the eyes.
If you do use a lamp on your desk, ensure it is not pointed directly at your face.
Instead, the light should be pointed downward, towards papers on your desk.
While you can make some changes to your computer workstation and monitor, there are other things you can do to ensure you are protecting your eyes as best you can while working.
Look away from your computer screen at least every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.
Focusing on an item that is about 20 feet away from you can help to reduce strain and fatigue on the eye muscles. This practice is known as the 20-20-20 rule.
You can also adjust your eyes’ focusing ability and “relax” your eyes by looking at a faraway object for 10 to 15 seconds. Then, look at an object that is closer to you.
Adjust Air Quality
The air quality in the environment that you use a computer in can play a role in eyestrain and dryness. Use a humidifier to increase the amount of moisture in the air. If necessary, move away from fans and vents that blow air toward your eyes and face.
Also avoid smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke that can irritate your eyes.
Some supplements may help improve your dry eye and eyestrain symptoms.
For example – omega 3 fatty acids may help with dry eye but research is limited.
Always talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist before taking any supplements.
Take a Break
If you work at a computer all day, it is important to take frequent breaks.
These breaks do not have to be for long periods of time.
Every hour or two, take a few minutes to get up and go for a short walk, stretch your arms and legs. Not only can getting away from the computer reduce eyestrain and dryness, it can also help reduce any neck or back pain you experience from sitting at a computer.
Use an App
There are several apps we can download on our computer that remind us to take breaks or automatically adjust our screen settings to protect our eyes.
For example – one app changes the colour and brightness of our computer screen based on the time of the day, so that we are not straining our eyes. Another app allows us to set up alerts that remind us to take short breaks.
Dehydration can make chronic dry eye symptoms worse.
If we are staring at a computer screen for an extended period of time on top of that, not drinking enough water can make our eyes feel even worse.
Stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water throughout each day.
See an Eye Doctor
If you have tried all of the above and still cannot seem to get relief, it could be time to get your eyes evaluated. Make an appointment with an ophthalmologist or optometrist to see if you need a new prescription for glasses or contacts.
Your doctor may also recommend an over the counter or prescription treatment, such as eye drops or ointments to help relieve your symptoms. (24)
Simple Living Global are not endorsing any of the above recommendations. We are presenting what is out there online, where anyone of us can access this information.
An important note here is to be Honest about what is really going on for us as an individual and not get caught up in what the masses are saying or doing. Best to Question things and start paying attention to what our body is communicating.
As the author of this article and this website, many hours are spent in front of a screen and one thing that works is the Featherlight Eye Pillow. It supports the eyes to rest and at the same time relax the body. https://www.featherlight.com.au/
Phone Addiction not Driven by Notifications
Smartphone addictions unlikely to be caused by notifications
Study by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) suggests
- 89% with phones were unprompted
- 11% responding to an alert
Group chats considered a “source of distress” for participants in the study
Smartphone checking largely caused by “an urge of the user to interact with their phone that seems to occur in an almost automatic manner, just as a smoker would light a cigarette” says the study.
1,130 interactions in total were recorded for research
Why people used their phones:
- 22% – WhatsApp
- 17% – Lock screen check (to see any notifications)
- 16% – Instagram
- 13% – Facebook
- 6% – Emails
- 1% – Calls
Emails were ranked as the most important notification for participants in the study
Users also spent less time on their phone when with other people and the longest interactions took place on public transport or at home.
Some participants seemed surprised at the automatic nature of their interactions
I would not consider myself someone who is not attached to their phone much.
But seeing this has made me realise that I do not even remember picking it up. I think I use it a lot more than I let myself believe. Participant 1
I do not remember getting my phone out. When I see that moment, I do not remember doing that…and I am surprised that I keep checking it. Participant 2
The act of checking a phone has become a need for many users, rather than using the device for Communication.
This is a serious issue, especially for children and we are running into the dark without having fully understood how these devices are changing our way of living.
Very important and urgent things are rare. Most things can wait a few hours.
Professor Saadi Lahlou – co author of the study and chair of social psychology at LSE (25)
More research should be done to understand how interactions with smartphones related to executing a specific function or just fulfilling a habit. This may help uncover a bit more about whether these behaviours are driven by specific human needs and how these behaviours help fulfil these or whether they are simply behaviours for their own sake.
Dr. Linda Kaye – Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University (25)
New Study reveals Countries most Addicted to Screens 2019
Philippines spent the most time online in the world – 10 hours a day
The country spent 5 hours on mobile interest and 5 hours on desktops, laptops or tablets.
Brazil, Columbia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the top 5 countries
Brazil, Columbia and Thailand all spend more than 9 hours a day on the Internet
United Arab Emirates has highest amount of people using the Internet
99% have access
41% use the Internet in China
- 5 hours 46 minutes average on the Internet per day
- 75% age 5 to 7 spending up to 9 hours a day online
- 6 hours 31 minutes on the Internet everyday
- 3 hours 45 minutes per day online
- 94% of the population have access to the Internet
- 6 hours and 42 minutes is the worldwide average
- 34 countries were above the worldwide average
Age and Gender
- 99.4% age 25 – 34 use the Internet
- 99.2% age 16 – 24 use the Internet
- 83.2% age 65 – 74 use the Internet
- 100% age 18 – 29 use the Internet
- 73% age 65+ use the Internet
Research from the UK and USA revealed there was little difference between the genders when it came to Internet usage.
UK – Children and Workers
Employees could spend more than 18 hours a day on their screens across work, commuting and home.
13 hours a day – Accountants spending on screen
12.5 hours a day – Teachers on screen use
Increasingly, parents are becoming worried about the amount of time their children are spending online. In efforts to pacify children or aid learning, tablets are often used but there is a lot of discussion around the safety of children online and whether it can affect their overall development. (26)
Well it is official now. We have mobile phone addiction around the world.
On the note of addiction, it is worth saying that we need more of the same to give us the feeling we seek. No different to Alcohol, Cigarettes or Drugs. This means our tolerance changes, so we may start with a few hours on the screen but it is not enough, so we seek more of the same to get the high, the hit, the buzz or whatever it is that rewards us.
Would it be true to say that Screen Time addiction is the same as any other Drug?
Mental Health Awareness:
Keeping your Screen Time Healthy
- Take breaks
- Identify your triggers
- Plan your Screen Time
- Find alternative ways to connect
- Physical activities without screens (27)
Will our tips for reducing Screen Time work?
Can we really change our behaviour and stop looking at our phone first thing in the morning?
Can we admit with a big dose of Honesty that life without our phone at the dinner table is not possible and we like that as it suits our lifestyle?
Can we really make the necessary movements to not check our phones multiple times last thing at night?
Can we really limit the amount of time we spend on apps or even stop subscribing to new apps that drain our phones in the background?
Can a feature to limit the amount of time we spend on an app really work if we have ultimate control of what we can and cannot do on the phone?
What happened in life before the invention of screens?
What was life really like back then and is there something we could ALL learn from good old fashion Communication?
The following quote from a journalist over 60 years ago tells us how long we have been using screens for our pleasure and entertainment, but to what purpose has it really served us?
We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent.
We have a built-in allergy to unpleasant and disturbing information.
Our mass media reflect this but unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognise that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it may see a totally different picture too late.
This instrument can teach us.
It can illuminate and yes it can even inspire but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it towards those ends.
Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.
Edward R. Morrow – October 1958 (28)
How much have we changed 63 years later and did any of us pay attention to what Morrow was presenting to us back then?
It would be true to say that more than half a century later we continue to have a built-in allergy to unpleasant and disturbing information.
It would also be true to say that the masses today are using the Television in addition to the modern-day smartphone, tablet and laptop to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us.
We as humans have not used the screen to inspire us to evolve as a species and this presentation thus far confirms that very clearly. To keep it super Simple, for the record – screen addiction is anti-evolutionary. Fact.
And finally, it would be very true to say that Edward Morrow had made a significant contribution about the television – it is merely wires and lights in a box.
As we come to the end of this presentation, can we consider some more Questions –
HOW have we got to the point where Screen Time has overtaken our lives?
WHY has Screen Time become so important to us above all else?
WHY can we not imagine life without a screen for one day?
WHY have we become so dependent on our Screen Time?
WHY have we not even thought about reducing our Screen Time?
WHY have our Solutions to have a screen detox not worked?
WHY have we accepted it as normal having screens when eating?
WHY are we making Family time busy with Screen Time?
WHY are we endorsing Screen Time behavior in our kids?
WHY are we giving our kids a screen just to keep them quiet?
WHY are we scrolling away incessantly on our screens every day?
WHY are we wasting so much un-necessary time on screens?
WHY are we looking at a screen as soon as we wake up?
WHY are we checking our smartphone screens all day?
WHY are we in the habit of going on our phone in work time?
WHY are we walking with our heads in our screen not looking up?
WHY are we aimlessly scrolling the screen at every opportunity?
WHY are we getting so distracted when it comes to screens?
WHY are we struggling with our Screen Time addiction?
WHY are we full of fear at the thought of no screen to look at?
WHY do we indulge and escape with our 24/7 Screen Time habits?
WHY do we need a screen in our bed when it is time to sleep?
WHY do we go to bed with the big TV screen on all night?
WHY do we use Screen Time for Gaming to pass the time?
WHY do we exercise at the gym in front of a big fat screen?
WHY do we check the screen with 7 seconds spare in the elevator?
WHY do we do Screen Time porn while others are watching TV?
WHY do we go out to eat and do Screen Time instead of talking?
WHY do we enjoy the comfort of a screen instead of Real life stuff?
WHY do we bother with disabling functions to stop our Screen Time?
WHY are we totally dependent on our screens to run our lives?
WHY are we so bored that we need Screen Time to stimulate us?
WHY are our Solutions to curb the use of Screen Time failing?
WHY are we Blaming the culture of modern society for Screen Time?
We have created Screen Time in our life now and somehow it has become the new normal. Just because the masses are doing it does not make it true for us, if it affects our health and well-being in any way.
If we are addicted or care to admit we have a tendency to use our Screen Time to excess, then we ought to know that just like any other drug of choice it comes with side effects as presented in this article.
We are left with one Question – Is it worth it?
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