Students Have Too Much Screen Time


Sarah Lyle, Staff Writer, Cheif Book Reviewer and Editor

After school, you get home and open your Chromebook to get some assignments done. But as you open it, your eyes get achy and your head starts to hurt. When this happens to me, I often push on with my work and blame it on a headache, because I have work to do. These symptoms raise an important topic; students have too much screen time. 

Many of our assignments are on a computer, and we are using them for about 3-4 hours a day. According to Mayo Clinic, teenagers should only get 1-2 hours. Also, many students spend time on their phones and watching tv. This can bring the total amount of screen time to 3-8 hours! Many kids of the 21st century are suffering from hunched backs or pain in the neck, shoulders, or back. This happens from spending too much time on a device. Right now, you are probably reading this with your neck bent down and your back bent forward. Spending too much time in this position can cause serious problems in your future.

Having so much screen time when our brains are still developing can also be detrimental to our health. A  study called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) revealed that kids who spend 7+ hours on screens per day had a thinner cortex than others. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain that processes information. Adolescence is when this part of our brain develops, and around the time when we are exposed to more screens, such as phones. 

Going on screen time too much can also make it hard to sleep at night. Some people try to fall asleep while watching TV, or scrolling on their phone before they go to bed. To go to sleep, your body needs to release a chemical called melatonin, and it only gets released when the body realizes that it is dark out. But if you go right from screens to sleep, it could take a while for that effect to trigger, leading students to take out their phones again. This can lead to a vicious cycle that results in no sleep. 

Excessive screen time can also cause high blood pressure, low bone density, obesity, low HDL cholesterol, poor stress regulation, and insulin resistance. All of these factors come from prolonged sitting, which many of us have been the victims of since the COVID-19 pandemic. During the Covid lockdown, everyone was working from home or doing school from home. The only way to do this was on a screen. And after the school/work day was over, many people went back to screens, feeling that there was nothing to do. But the ending of the lockdown did not necessarily end the habits. 

So what can we do about this? I, for one, try to spend as much time outside as possible. I enjoy hiking, paddleboarding, and playing lacrosse. But getting outside can be hard in the winter, so some alternatives include reading, writing, drawing, going downtown or spending time with friends, running/exercising, cooking, making music (on an instrument or with your voice), and anything else you can think of. Feel free to leave a comment with any other ideas that you have! Another rule that I find helpful is the 20,20,20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent on a screen, get up and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This rule helps you move your back, neck, and shoulders, and refocus your eyes. Who knows, after doing this you might feel inspired to go outside or do something that is not on a device. 

But, no matter what we do, there will always be screens in our lives. They might come in the form of school, entertainment, or communication. However, it is important to remember that while screens are a part of your life, they are not the most important part of your life.