How to Stay Healthy with Screens

No matter what we think about our digital devices, it’s pretty undeniable that we need them to get by.

We check email for work, renew our driver’s licenses, book flights, find a dentist, read books, order paper towels, watch TV. Learning digital literacy, according to the New York Times, is just as crucial as learning digital moderation. But how do we strike a balance?

Here are a few tips to help you regulate your screen usage.

Reframe tech usage in terms other than “addiction.”

When we think of our relationship to our devices in terms of addiction, we’re beating ourselves up, assuming that we’re the problem and not the digital culture around us. Thinking of excess technology as addiction puts us in the frame of mind that technology is a drug, instead of a crucial element of our modern lives. And while it’s true that technology use can become compulsive, it’s important to be mindful that technology is an inevitable part of daily function.

Teach kids (and yourself) about games and the digital experience.

Games and programs are specifically designed to attract, hold, and prolong your attention. An article in Vox found that there are deliberate design elements that keep you coming back to your device. Knowing that truth may not disrupt your eleventh hour playing Fortnite, but it’s good to be conscious of the fact that the game is doing exactly what it’s supposed to.

Set limits.

For kids, an NCBI study looked at the effects of a screen-time diet of more than two hours. And they found that two hours is a good recommendation, but that there isn’t too much of an effect on their behavior if they exceed the recommendation. Which means the science is still pretty soft. We’re really not sure what the long-term effects of all this pixel consumption might be.

But structuring your time, incorporating screens into your routine, is a nice way of establishing structure and order to your day to day. It’s how we stay healthy.

Follow your body’s cues.

It’s not always easy to stop eating when you’re full, but the signs of fullness are easy to recognize. With digital and tech consumption, those signs are subtler, but they’re there. Stiffness in your back, legs, wrists, or neck. Blurry vision. Headache. A general psychological feeling of unease and discomfort. All of these physical signs will let you know, gently, that you’ve been prone for too long. Trust your body when it tells you it needs to move. To get sunshine. To breathe fresh air. Or to clean off the dining room table.

So pay attention to your body. It may feel good to push yourself to the limit right now, but you’ll be much more comfortable if you put the device down and stretch and move. Consider it a short-term and long-term investment in your overall health and well-being. Consider it self-care!