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Four Health Benefits of Decreasing Screen Time

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all adjusted to spending an unprecedented amount of time in our homes. Many of us are now experts at utilizing technology to conduct business, entertain ourselves, and socialize. Unfortunately, this overabundant and unrestricted use of screens may cause health problems.

Joining us today is Mihaela Vincze, public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute®, and she’s here to discuss four ways in which decreasing what has been appropriately dubbed “screen time” can improve our overall health. It’s nice to have you back and thanks for joining me.

Mihaela Vincze:

Thank you for having me.

Al Waller:

Now that we’re a full year into this pandemic, it’s a fairly opportune time to discuss the benefits of decreasing screen time for our health. So, could you start us off with some of the specific health benefits of folks would enjoy with that kind of reduction?

Mihaela Vincze:

Taking breaks from staring at a screen all day may reduce eye strain which may lead to Computer Vision Syndrome. You can combat this by trying the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Furthermore, try to decrease screen time in the evening to improve your sleep. The blue light emitted from electronic devices has been shown to negatively interfere with our natural sleep hormones. Good, restorative sleep is essential for optimal immune function.

Al Waller:

Well, Mihaela, I think you might be on to something and at least helped solved the mystery of my “less than restful” sleeping patterns, because as I think about it, I know I’ve gotten into the habit of reading off either my iPhone & iPad on a nightly basis before turning in. And really any way we can protect and boost our immune system is

important so, I suspect that keeping our screen time to a minimum is a great first step. Now what additional health benefits could we derive by reducing our screen time?

Mihaela Vincze:

It can increase our focus. By taking breaks from our screens, we can increase productivity and reduce stress. A 2015 study also found that the more time young adults spent in front of a computer, the more likely they were to experience migraines.

Al Waller:

Well, whether you’re young or old, migraines are something you definitely want to keep at bay. As you point out, the link between mental health and screen time is important especially when we’re spending so much time at home. So, any other ways our health can benefit from reducing screen time?

Mihaela Vincze:

Yes, It is very tempting to fall into a sedentary lifestyle, however, it is linked with cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression, according to the World Health Organization. The time spent in front of the screen could be spent being more physically active.

Al Waller:

Well, these are all great incentives for reducing time in front of the screen. With that being said, many people continue to struggle with creating boundaries to stay off screens. Now, what methods or thoughts would you have for them?

Mihaela Vincze:

It may be a good idea to develop consistent habits around screens, rather than overwhelming yourself with harsh rules. Remember, screen time may be a habit for you so it might be beneficial to have alternative habits to turn to— walking outside, picking up a new hobby or learning a sport are some ideas. I also personally find it helpful to set “screen free time” in my day, for instance, during dinner, where I do not allow myself to scan a screen. If you need some ideas to help keep you on track to reduce screen time, check out Harvard Medical School’s Screen Time and the Brain page.

Al Waller:

Well, great advice all around Mihaela! And it looks like we’re out of time so thanks again for joining us. This has been another episode of ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. I’m your host Al Waller on WYPR, Your NPR News Station. Until the next time, stay safe, occasionally unplugged—and thanks for listening.

Clearpath is paid for by Transamerica Institue.

Al Waller is a long time native of the Baltimore area. He entered the field of Human Resources Management starting as an HR Generalist with PwC (Pricewaterhouse-Coopers). This marked the beginning of a 30 year career that advanced into the management level for locally and globally based corporations. His primary area of expertise has focused on but not limited to: Talent Acquisition /Retention, Employee Relations as well as Training & Development.
Mihaela is a public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute