We all love our screens. From televisions and computers to cell phones and tablets, many of us, both adults and children alike, spend a significant amount of our waking hours sitting in front of screens – often at the expense of spending time outdoors. While some might argue that this is simply an evolutionary feature of life today, the fact is that too much screen time can have a negative impact on our health.
Studies have shown that as children and teenagers spend more time in front of screens, they tend to sleep less and weigh more – both of which can lead to health related concerns down the line. What’s more, because people who spend a high percentage of time in front of a screen spend very little time outside, they often experience higher rates of depression, attention deficit disorder and other related health conditions. Some believe that this is because spending too much time inside leads to a vitamin D deficiency while others believe that our health is tied to our connection to nature and that we suffer when we don’t spend enough time outdoors (the belief is that nature allows our brains to relax whereas spending excessive time in front of a screen or even just in an urban/indoor settings keep us hyper-stimulated and stressed).
While there’s no doubt that, for most of us, functioning in today’s world means spending time in front of a screen, the key is striking a balance – especially for kids – to avoid some of the negative health consequences. Try setting limits on screen time for kids and teenagers with a night time curfew or specific periods for devoted exclusively for outdoor activities. Of course, we all know that kids tend to do what we do, not what we say. So the best way to get them to change their behaviour is to lead by example.
While the longer term effects of excessive screen time is not yet fully known, there’s no doubt that spending more time outside, in the sunshine and doing something active can only help – both now and in the long run!