Screen time is considered any time spent looking at screens, whether that is working on a computer, watching a hockey game on TV, reading the CARHA Hockey Twitter feed, checking out YouTube videos on how to master the saucer pass, catching movies or any other time you’re focusing on a screen and not the world around you. If you have kids you may have heard that it’s important to limit screen time for children of certain ages to help little brains develop properly, increase attention span, foster creativity and to encourage an active lifestyle, but there are risks with too much screen time for adults, too.
When you spend most of your day working on computers and a significant part of your day staring at a cell phone, you end up sitting in certain ways, holding your head in certain positions and all for far longer than you should. The angle that most people sit to stare at a screen, combined with the weight of your head makes it the equivalent of holding 60 lbs with muscles that were never meant to support that. Back pain, shoulder aches, neck pain are all symptoms of too much continuous screen time.
Do you bring your phone to bed with you? Have a TV in your room and watch before trying to fall asleep? Work on a laptop from bed? The light created by screens can throw off your body’s ability to sense day and night and prevents the natural processes that help you fall asleep. Many people skip the proper wind down phase entirely because they are constantly staring at their phones, checking social media or falling asleep with the tv on. This is not a healthy cycle as it doesn’t set you up for a sound, deep sleep but rather an exhausted collapse that is often restless and not rejuvenating. A few nights of this and you’ll find yourself more like a zombie and less like a human during the day.
When we’re watching tv, reading blog posts and scanning Facebook, it FEELS like we’re doing stuff, we feel busy, we feel engaged and at the end of the day, after checking our phone while we’re in line for coffee, eating dinner in front of the tv, doing a little extra work on our laptop before bed, we feel like we didn’t have a moment to spare and that there is no time available to do more. But minutes to hours slip away while our eyes are locked on screens, that in generations past, might have been used to get outside, go for a walk, notice a friend and have a chat, get bored and do something physical or social. Instead, screens make us feel busier and more stressed than ever before. We “feel” like we don’t have time to be active or that we’re social enough online and we don’t have time to be social in real life – but there is no screen substitute for physical activity and socializing – you have to shut down the screens to keep the weight and stress down.
If you catch yourself complaining of a sore back and achy shoulders, haven’t had a good night’s sleep in forever and feel busier, more stressed and have noticed the numbers on the scale creeping up – before you blame it on getting older and just the way life is, consider how much time you spend gazing at screens. Staring at screens causes eye-strain and we feel pain from the exhaustion – no one is going to be psyched to play hockey, or do anything else, if they feel like a zombie or that they have brain fog to fight. If you work on screens all day, set a reminder to get up and take a walk, stretch or go outside every hour or so. Keep the laptops and cellphones out of the bedroom – and put them down at least an hour before you want to be asleep so the backlight doesn’t trick your body into thinking it’s still daylight. Turn off the tv at least an hour before bed – opt for a book, sports podcast, music, journaling or spending time with loved ones, to fill the last hour of the day. Schedule time in your calendar to do things and see people – and leave the cell phone in your pocket, car or at home so you can be 100% present and spend fleeting moments of downtime admiring the outdoors, people watching or daydreaming instead of with your nose in Google. Your health, relationships, sleep – and your hockey game will all improve with a little less screen time.