+ Well Nourished ⎮ The Impacts of Screen Time

The Impacts of Screen Time

Words by Psychotherapist Jane Faulkner

My son is pre-teen and started to develop all of the attitudes and resistances of a teenager. One of our biggest battles is over screen time. I have a rule of one hour a day of any screen TV and computer included – I think that is more than enough!

I realize that being computer literate is an important part of our life today, however, I am concerned with the amount of screen time that each of us has in a day.

Studies are limited on the impact of screens upon us, however, researchers and mental health specialists are starting to link the following with increased screen usage:

  • Reduced- social development, social skills, academic progress, physical activity, health and wellbeing, attention span, resilience and ability to cope with stress.
  • Increased- moodiness, agitation, hyperarousal, sleep issues, anxiety and depression, difficulties in forming friendships and relationships and even risk of suicide.

These findings are highly concerning especially as we as a society seem so blasé about screen use, especially in children. Children’s nervous systems are much more sensitive than adults and screen can have a negative effect upon their nervous system making them wired but tired and fractious all of the time.

I understand that there are benefits to screen time. Screen time is very stimulating and engages our creativity, our imaginations and provides a forum for us to learn and engage in issues and topics of interest.

It is the amount of screen time that I am concerned with. I’m concerned that screen time limits our other interactions namely with nature and with other people. Screen time can become addictive and can be a convenient way to avoid life and relating with others. This is particularly concerning as in some cases, everyone is engaging with their device and no-one is talking or connecting, it’s like walking into a void, where people’s minds are actively engaged, but nothing else is.

In many spiritual practices, the aim is to give the mind less power and control and to devote more time and attention to the heart.  Spiritual teachers realize that the mind often causes a lot of trouble in our lives- the mind is always looking outside of us to gain pleasure and satisfy the need of the ego to feel special. The issue with the mind is that it doesn’t give us a full perspective of life; we perceive and follow what serves us and satisfies us. The mind is driven by what we as an individual needs and is very susceptible to advertising- get this and you will be great, happy, healthy etc. this creates a separation between others and us and we become self-obsessed and not so concerned with community and connection. This leads to a lot of individuals getting their needs met no matter who or what they harm in the process. This is the opposite of what the heart and soul want and need – connection and community. The heart and soul are satisfied with the simple things in life, family, friendships, nature and helping others.

So, please look at your screen usage and set limits for your children’s usage. Send them outside to interact with nature, themselves and other kids. They may protest, but being outside, the body produces hormones that encourage health and well-being, stress reduction and peaceful sleep.

So over to you. Do you have rules around screen time and how do you control screen time in your household? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Jane Faulkner is a Reg. Nurse with a Masters Degree in Gestalt Psychotherapy, a certificate in Initiatic Art Therapy and A Certificate in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy; she is also a yoga teacher. Jane works in private practice as well as in a local health retreat. She has worked in the Wellness industry for the past 20 years.

Jane has two upcoming retreats scheduled in May for women interested in exploring their spirituality, their stuck places and their inner selves through art therapy, equine therapy, natural horsemanship and yoga. Contact Jane to find out more.

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The impact of screen time

  • Ash

    So glad to hear someone addressing this issue! I feel so alone as a mum trying to urge my kids to not be on devices. In the holidays my eldest son was down in the dumps most days because I limited his time on the I pad. My husband and I then decided this was unhealthy and had no devices over the long weekend, we explained this to the kids- we could read, play games, swim and go for walks at the beach but no computers. The weekend was so nice and proved that we can live without devices, in fact I find everyone is so much happier without them. Thanks for talking about this!

  • Yes I agree with the feeling alone Ash. We have very strict rules with screen time (none Monday to Friday unless for homework) and I know my kids are better off when they aren’t watching TV or looking at an iPad. I can tell immediately when they have had too much time on screens, their mood and whole disposition changes for the worse. I’m finding the peer pressure tough as well now as my daughter (almost 12) thinks I treat her unfairly because all her friends are on their devices after school. Big sigh, tough gig this parenting! G x

    • Livi

      While research is limited it is still relevant. As a counsellor I have seen the serious side effects of screen time on children and adults. Like most mums I can also see the effect on my own boys’ behaviour.
      We need to wait for science to help educate the population, but as parents we don’t need to wait for scientific data to regulate our own homes when we have real experiences with our own children. Since when did we elevate science above our own instincts or common sense. You are doing a great job at noticing the behavioural change. I find many parent’s don’t and when they are educated they don’t want to lose this electronic babysitter. Sadly this need is greater than their need to protect their child’s mind and future.

      • I agree, instinct always wins for me. Glad we’re on the right track Gx

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