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Posted on 03-01-2017

Screen Time and its Short- and Long-Term Effects

by Michael Milbauer, D.C.

There is no doubt that easy access to vast amounts of information is a wonderful thing. The sheer convenience of being able to watch favorite movies, television shows, play games, do homework, and stay in contact with friends and family is the biggest bonus of technology. All of this ease of access does bring with it some concerns that need to be kept in mind. This is particularly true if you are a parent with children who put in what is now considered an average amount of screen time each day.
According to the latest figures, the average child (8-18) spends approximately seven hours per day and over 50 hours per week either on a computer or with their eyes glued to a cell phone or tablet. Needless to say, this has raised some concerns about the interference it causes with the development of social skills, and primary concern is the health effects this constant screen time exposure can cause.

Brain Development
While research is continuing to develop data in these areas of research, it has been found that too much time in front of a screen does have detrimental effects on the brains of both children and adults.
The areas of the brain responsible for communicating, planning, aggression, impulse control, and cravings seem to be those that are most heavily taxed, but even the white matter that enables the various parts of the brain to communicate are affected.

Vision Problems
The knowledge that too much time looking at anything too close to our eyes is not healthy isn't new. Long before the advent of the first computers, teachers would caution students reading to look up from their books occasionally to rest their eyes. With the increase of computer-based jobs, the 20/20/20 rule was developed. Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
While there is no hard data available validating the cause and effect of screen time and eye problems, it should be noted that the percentage of people needing glasses or contacts to see clearly and the rate of electronic gadget use closely mirror each other, both rising at almost equal rates.

Back and Neck Strain
Another area that should be of great concern is the fact that most gadgets promote poor posture. The constant head down attitude that most commonly accompanies cell phone and tablet use, puts tremendous pressure on the muscles and connective tissues in the neck and can lead to chronic neck and back pain. While chiropractic treatments have been found to help considerably with these issues, the long-term effects on growing muscles and the skeleton might require a comprehensive treatment plan based on chronic pain or issues that could have been prevented. 

What You Can Do
Our electronics are with us to stay. That is a given. However, there are a few things you can do to limit their negative impact.

Schedule family events and activities that are mobile-free periods
Limit the time you or your kids are allowed to play video games
Promote proper posture even when gaming or just watching TV
Make bed and dining times electronic-free periods
Set a good example by getting active and taking your kids outside

It would be difficult to give up the convenience that electronics bring to our lives, but as with most things, the secret is moderation. Too much of anything is never a good thing. Place reasonable limits on what is and isn't allowed, both for yourself and your family. In the long run, you will both be happier and healthier for it.

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