Screen Time: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

February 13, 2024
Diane Almanzor

Remember when screen time was mostly limited to the good old television set and those chunky desktop computers? Fast forward to today, and the average person is essentially tethered to screens 24/7 thanks to those nifty little mobile devices we carry in our pockets. 

Studies are telling us that adults in the United States are spending over 11 hours each day glued to digital media. And you know who's giving them a run for their money? Teenagers. They're clocking in a solid 7-9 hours of screen time for fun outside of school and homework. It's like screens have become their best buddies.

Now, let's rewind a bit to 2007 when Apple dropped the first iPhone on us. That little gadget turned out to be a game-changer in the screen time saga. It put the whole wide web, social media, videos, games, and a gazillion apps right into our pockets.

And just like that, our daily screen time skyrocketed. Who would've thought that these mini-computers we carry around would become such an addiction?

But wait, there's more. The COVID-19 pandemic? It didn't do us any favors in the screen time department. With work-from-home setups blurring the lines between professional and personal tech use, it's like we never really escape those screens. Convenience, yes. Balance? Not so much.

Of course, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Experts have started sounding the alarm about the impact of all this screen time on our mental health, sleep, relationships, and even our attention spans. And the kicker? We're just scratching the surface when it comes to understanding the long-term consequences of our digital immersion.

Bottom line? We're living in a digital age like no other, my friends. Screens are here to stay, and it's high time we take a closer look at how they're shaping our lives.

The Benefits of Screen Time

  1. Educational Value

Today's technology has completely transformed the way we learn. It's like a modern-day educational revolution right at our fingertips. Imagine turning those traditionally tough subjects into exciting, hands-on adventures. Learning isn't just easier – it's become a whole lot more fun.

In Australia, a noteworthy study explores the different categories of screen time: educational, passive, and interactive. And guess what? The results are eye-opening. Educational screen time stands out as the star player, making a significant positive impact on children. It boosts their persistence and, perhaps most importantly, enhances their educational outcomes.

Just envision your child exploring the mysteries of the cosmos or mastering complex math concepts while immersed in a captivating game or a thrilling virtual reality experience. 

That's the real magic of the educational tech we have at our disposal today. It's not just about making learning accessible; it's about making it an adventure worth embarking on. So, embrace the benefits of screen time, especially the educational variety – it's shaping the future of learning.

  1. Social Connection

Screen time isn't just about keeping kids entertained; it's become a vital bridge to maintaining and expanding their social circles. In a world where in-person interactions can be limited, screens have emerged as powerful tools for fostering connections.

So, what's the deal with screen time? Well, it's not just about casual chatting anymore. It's about equipping our young ones with essential digital communication skills that will serve them well in the future. 

In a way, they're not just playing games; they're collaborating on virtual projects, showcasing their digital creations, and keeping bonds alive with distant family members. These activities aren't mere pastimes; they're valuable experiences that help our children adapt to an increasingly interconnected world.

In essence, screen time has evolved into an avenue for personal growth and social development. It's not just about passively consuming content but actively engaging with the digital world, honing skills, and staying connected with peers and loved ones. It's a brave new world out there, and our kids are navigating it with screens as their trusty companions.

  1. Entertainment and Relaxation

A cross-sectional survey found that screen usage for leisure activities like gaming and social networking is not all doom and gloom! In fact, it showed that folks who partake in these activities tend to experience lower stress levels and higher life satisfaction.

When used wisely, screens can be a well-deserved break for children and even for adults. Imagine those cozy family movie nights where you all gather around the screen, popcorn in hand, ready for a cinematic adventure. 

Or think about those interactive educational games that make learning feel like a game rather than a chore. And let's not forget about the kid-friendly TV shows that manage to entertain and educate simultaneously.

These activities not only bring joy and laughter but also provide fantastic opportunities for families to bond. Plus, they offer children the chance to learn in a relaxed and comfortable environment. So, when it comes to screens, it's all about balance and making the most of the wonderful moments they can offer.

The Drawbacks of Screen Time

  1. Health Concerns

Seeing the blue lights emanating from our screens? They might not seem like much, but they can pack a punch when it comes to our well-being. 

Staring at screens for extended periods can put a real strain on our eyes, and it's all thanks to that blue light. It not only causes eye discomfort but can also disrupt our sleep patterns, making it harder to catch those much-needed Zs.

But it doesn't stop there. The impact on mental health is another concern that's been gaining attention. Some rather eye-opening research has linked excessive screen time with increased symptoms of depression, particularly among teenagers. 

It's alarming to see anxiety levels on the rise and attention spans shortening, especially when screens start taking over precious time meant for physical activities and genuine face-to-face conversations.

So, what do we do about it? Well, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some guidelines to offer. For our little ones aged 2-5 years, they recommend limiting screen time to no more than one hour per day, except for video chats with family or friends. And for the slightly older kids, aged 6-18 years, the limit extends to two hours per day, with homework as the exception.

Now, when it comes to us adults, there's no one-size-fits-all rule. But some experts suggest keeping screen time outside of work to less than two hours per day. It's about finding that balance and recognizing the importance of disconnecting from our digital 

  1. Impact on Social Skills

While it’s pretty incredible how technology has transformed our lives, especially when it comes to staying connected, it can't quite replace the richness of in-person socializing. There's something special about face-to-face communication that we just can't replicate on our screens.

Now, here's something to ponder: excessive screen time, especially for kids, could actually be hindering the development of those crucial face-to-face communication skills. 

There's this fascinating study that found children who spent four or more hours glued to their screens were more likely to have underdeveloped communication abilities, fine motor skills, and personal and social skills by the time they hit age two. That's pretty eye-opening, right?

Those non-verbal cues and emotional intelligence, they're like the secret sauce of personal growth. And you know what? You can only really pick up on those when you step away from the digital world and engage in those good old-fashioned face-to-face interactions. 

So, as much as we love our screens, let's not forget the magic that happens when we put them down and have a good old chat with someone.

  1. Distraction and Academic Impact

Have you seen a child engrossed in a video game or endlessly scrolling through social media, completely oblivious to their pending homework or the beckoning call of outdoor adventures? It's a scene that plays out far too often, and it's a source of genuine concern.

Homework and outdoor activities may seem unrelated, but they're both integral to a child's holistic development and academic success. When screens take center stage, these crucial aspects of growth often take a backseat, and that's when things get tricky.

What's intriguing is the growing body of research shedding light on the consequences of excessive screen time. For instance, studies have shown that students who clock more than two hours a day glued to TV or screens tend to experience a noticeable dip in their academic performance. And it's not just limited to school-age kids; even college students aren't immune.

For our college-bound scholars, excessive screen time can be a real academic buzzkill. It leads to decreased focus, a drop in productivity, and struggles in retaining information, which can ultimately spell trouble for their grades.

But let's not forget the younger ones. Excessive screen time has also been connected to emotional turbulence in school-aged children. Plus, it's been found to have detrimental effects on their math and literacy skills. Who would've thought that a seemingly harmless screen could wield such a profound impact?

So, it's not just about limiting screen time for the sake of it; it's about preserving the balance that ensures our kids get the best of both worlds: the benefits of technology without sacrificing their well-rounded development and academic success.

Finding the Right Balance in Screen Time

We all know that the digital realm offers a plethora of advantages for our youngsters. It opens up new avenues for learning, connects them with peers worldwide, and fosters creativity like never before. However, it's equally crucial to acknowledge the drawbacks, such as potential addiction, reduced physical activity, and the risk of exposure to inappropriate content.

So, what's the key to managing this delicate balancing act? It's all about informed and engaged parenting. By staying in the know about the advantages and drawbacks of screen time, we can make well-informed decisions for our children.

For a balanced screen time approach in your family, Aro can be a game-changer for your family. Not only does it keep track of screen-free time, but it also sends gentle reminders for screen time breaks, seamlessly blending into your home environment. It's a fantastic way to encourage putting those phones away and making sure that technology enhances, rather than hinders, your children's development.

Related articles

Aro helps families put down their phones to connect, relax, and recharge.

Aro app leaning against the Aro Home device
A close-up, overhead shot of the Aro showing a phone charging in one of the slots.
A family is gathered in the living room. Teenage kids run around while the parents relax on the sofa.

Life happens off your phone

Make phone-free time a part of your daily routine with Aro.