Column: Screen time and your health
Commentary by David Pletzer, MD
Mobile technology puts the world at our fingertips – literally. While there are many benefits to having news, information, entertainment and social media on demand, studies now show that increasing amounts of “screen time” can have a negative impact on personal health.
Research conducted by the National Institutes of Health reveals that extended exposure to screens of all types – TV, computers, smartphones, tablets and video games – increases the likelihood of weight gain and obesity and may cause attention-deficit issues. Anxiety and depression are also linked to excessive screen use because there is often no way for people to offset or “work through” the various stimuli received from these devices. Screen time can also affect quality and amount of sleep, which can lead to additional health concerns.
The bottom line is that spending significant amounts of time in front of screens can be harmful to both adults and children. It’s estimated that people of all ages spend an average of three hours a day just watching TV. That’s why it’s important for adults and parents to set limits on screen time. According to doctors and other health experts, children under two should not spend any time watching TV or using screens. Children and adults should limit screen time to just two hours per day, excluding time needed for school or work.
Setting guidelines as a family will help everyone maintain good screen-time habits. Most physicians recommend discontinuing use of screens at least an hour before bed and during mealtime. It’s important for parents to act as good role models for their children by abiding by screen-time limits.
There are other ways to counteract the effects of screen time:
Get moving. People are nearly always sedentary during screen time. Commit to getting at least one hour of moderate exercise each day to stay healthy.
Encourage socialization. Some screen time can be beneficial – especially when associated with a family or social activity. Interactive video games and family movie nights are ways that screens can help promote conversation, learning and togetherness.
David Pletzer, MD, specializes in family medicine. He is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Primary Care – Allisonville, 11530 Allisonville Rd., Ste. 190, in Fishers. He can be reached by calling the office at 678.3850.