Are you addicted to screen time?

You know…on your smart phone, computer, tablet, and the TV.

If your day is spent in mastering the art of “click, swipe, and tap,” and you can’t resist binge-watching the release of your next favorite show, it might be time to rethink how much time you spend in front of a screen.

Why? It’s bad for your health…and your brain.

TV used to take all the heat for creating couch-potato quarterbacks. But that’s not the case anymore. Last year the amount of time adults spend in front of a smart phone screen finally surpassed TV time, according to market research data.1

So how much time does the average adult spend on a smart phone and in front of the TV?

  • Phone Time = 3 hours, 43 minutes
  • TV Time = 3 hours, 35 minutes
  • Average number of times you touch your phone per day = 2,6172

It wasn’t that long ago that the average adult spent 4-8 hours in front of the TV per day. But that’s rapidly changing. Right now, TV and smart phone screen time are almost equal. But smart phone data usage suggests the gap is only widening for the click-swipe-and-tap addicted.

What’s wrong with so much screen time?

Well, let’s see. There’s the part about procrastinating all the things you should be doing. Like actual work, exercise, laundry, sleep, yard work, or taking care of kids.

But getting behind on your to-do list isn’t the bigger problem with too much screen time. It’s your health. Research shows that the more time you spend in front of a screen (phone, TV, tablet, computer, gaming device, etc.) the higher the risk for:

  • Diabetes3
  • Heart disease4
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Depression and loneliness5
  • Poor food choices6
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overweight/obesity

Are you starting to get the picture?

In today’s digital environment, you’re bound to spend some time in front of a screen at work, at home, in the car, or when you have free time. The cold-turkey method probably isn’t going to work. But it doesn’t have to control you.

If you feel a little too attached to your phone, or want to cut back on screen time, here are some things you can do:7

Track your screen time
OK, it’s kind of ironic, but you can track your screen time with a mobile app. Or you can keep a journal or calendar to track your screen time. Do this for at least a week.

You’ll get a snapshot of what your screen time activity looks like, along with the way your usage fluctuates throughout the day. It’s a starting point that can help you create a plan to cut back on screen time.

Create accountability
Once you have an idea of what your screen time looks like, share your idea to cut back on screen time with someone who will hold you accountable. Ask a family member, friend, or co-worker, to follow-up with you about screen time. You’ll be more likely to actually unplug.

Be reasonable
Remember…the cold-turkey method to give up all screen time just isn’t realistic for most people. Set a reasonable goal, like reduce screen time by 1 hour per day. Stick with it for an entire week. Evaluate how it goes. Then set a new goal.

Be active…without screen time
If you’re addicted to podcasts, music, movies, checking email, or the steady stream of social media posts, turn off your phone and step away from the screen. And be more active.

Take a walk. Go for a bike ride. Work in the yard. Play with your kids. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. You’ll burn extra calories, and you’ll feel better.

Make a daily appointment for no-screen time
Instead of constantly watching a screen (TV, phone, tablet, computer, and other devices), make an appointment for no screen time every day. Put it on your calendar just like you would an important appointment. For example, no screen time during meals or while you’re getting ready for the day. Or no screen time beginning two hours before bed.

At first, you might find it hard to adjust, but you can do it. During your no-screen-time hours, have a conversation with someone, play a game, read a book, exercise, or enjoy a hobby.

For most people, some screen time is an everyday part of life. But it doesn’t have to control your life. Want to cut back on screen time? Now is always the best time to start.

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