Why screen time is the new secondhand smoke

February 26, 2024
Diane Almanzor

Ever heard of secondhand smoke? Well, there's something similar happening in our homes, but with screens. It's called secondhand screen time. And just like that smoke, it's something we often don't see until we start looking for it.

Secondhand screen time is the digital version of secondhand smoking. Just as being around cigarette smoke can harm your health, being exposed to excessive screen time can have negative effects on your physical and cognitive abilities. 

According to various studies, this exposure is linked to issues such as obesity, sleep problems, depression, and anxiety, emphasizing the importance of being mindful of screen habits not just for ourselves but also for those around us.

Opening Pandora’s Box

You might be wondering what exactly secondhand screen time is. Well, it's all about the time we spend in front of screens, not just for ourselves but also how it affects those around us.

Imagine this: You're sitting on the couch, scrolling through your phone, and your kid is nearby, absorbed in a tablet game. That's secondhand screen time right there. It's when our screen habits don't just impact us but also those in our vicinity.

And this has psychological and social implications. Research tells us that too much screen time can mess with our attention spans, mess with our behavior, and even mess with our emotions

But here's the kicker: our screen habits don't just affect us. They also affect our families. Yup, you heard that right. The way we use screens influences how our kids use screens, too. So if we're constantly glued to our devices, chances are our kids will be too. 

For kids, excessive screen time has been linked to issues like decreased academic performance and difficulty regulating emotions. And for adults, it can lead to feelings of isolation and FOMO (fear of missing out).

Spotting Secondhand Screen Time

Children are our mirrors, reflecting our behaviors back at us. So when they start showing signs of excessive screen exposure, it's time to take notice. 

Keep an eye out for things like the following, as it might be a sign that they're getting a little too much secondhand screen time:

  • Reduced attention span
  • Increased irritability
  • Mimicking behaviors they see on screens. 
  • Starts swiping at imaginary screens or zoning out during conversations.

But it's not just the kids we need to watch out for. Excessive screen time can also put a strain on family relationships. 

Instead of chatting over dinner or playing board games together, everyone's got their faces buried in their devices. 

Despite everyone being in the same room, this gives off a feeling of being miles apart. Instead of bonding over real-life experiences, we're bonding over likes and retweets. And that's not exactly the stuff strong family connections are made of.

When screens take over, it can seriously mess with family dynamics. Communication breaks down, quality time together becomes a rarity, and shared activities become a thing of the past. 

Dialing Down the Digital

So, what can we do about it? Well, it starts with awareness. Recognizing the signs of secondhand screen time in our homes is the first step towards reclaiming our family time. From there, you can do the following strategies to reduce secondhand screen time within your family: 

Setting Boundaries and Creating No-Screen Zones

This means creating designated no-screen zones and times in our homes. Whether it's the dinner table, the bedroom, or just certain hours of the day, having tech-free spaces and moments encourages real, face-to-face interactions. 

Leading by Example

This means we parents need to practice what we preach. If we're constantly glued to our screens, how can we expect our kids to do any different? 

Engaging in Alternative Activities

There's a whole world out there beyond the glow of a screen, and it's just waiting to be explored. So why not swap screen time for some old-fashioned fun? 

Take a hike in nature, have a family game night, or get creative with arts and crafts. The possibilities are endless, and the memories you'll create together will last a lifetime.

Screen Time Management Tools

Set aside time each day for the whole family to unplug and unwind. And if you need a little extra help staying on track, there are plenty of apps and tools out there to help you monitor and limit screen time. 

At the end of the day, our relationships with our loved ones are way more important than any screen could ever be. Putting down the devices, looking each other in the eye, and remembering what it means to truly connect is what matters.

Cultivating Healthier Screen Habits

While screen time can be bad, as parents, we need to create a balanced digital environment for our whole family. Screens are here to stay, but they don't have to dominate our lives. So, here's how we can do this:

Educating Children About Screen Time

We need to be open and honest about the effects of too much screen time. But it's not all bad news. We can also show them how to use screens responsibly, with things like setting time limits and taking breaks.  Empowering our kids with this knowledge helps them make smarter choices about screen time.

Encouraging Open Dialogue

Encourage your family to talk openly about their digital habits, preferences, and concerns. Maybe your teen is feeling overwhelmed by social media, or your little one is struggling to find a balance between screen time and outdoor play. Create a safe space for discussion, so we can better understand each other's needs and support one another in building healthier digital habits.

Creating a Family Media Plan

Sit down as a family, and brainstorm guidelines that match your values and lifestyle. Maybe it's screen-free Sundays or tech-free hours during the day. Write it down and stick to it. Having a plan keeps everyone on track and prevents screens from taking over your lives.

Mastering Secondhand Screen Time Control

We've talked about recognizing the signs of secondhand screen time in our homes, the impact it can have on our families, and strategies to reduce it. From setting boundaries and leading by example to engaging in alternative activities and creating a family media plan, there are plenty of ways to build a healthier digital environment.

Now, it's time to take action. Let's encourage our family members to be proactive in mitigating secondhand screen time and fostering a balanced digital life. By making small changes and prioritizing real-life connections, we can create a home where screens complement our lives rather than control them. 

Just like how we protect our families from secondhand smoke, Aro helps shield our loved ones from secondhand screen time. It blends into your home and lifestyle. 

Aro not only charges your phone but also encourages you to take meaningful breaks, tracking the time you spend away from your screen and fostering healthier habits for everyone. 

Aro can be your guide to a more balanced phone-use rhythm.

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.