There is a great amount of discussion today about screen time; how much time you allow your children every day, and the influence this time has on the child’s development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics excessive screen time can put children at risk for a number of different problems. Children and teens who overuse screens and digital media have higher risks of obesity, sleep and behavioral problems, difficulties at school and it can also increase the risk of cyberbullying and exposure to predators.
The AAP also recommends children under 2 have very limited screen time, and children between ages 2 and 8 have only about one hour of high quality programming each day. Another study showed that 24% of adolescents said they are constantly connected to digital media and another 50% reported they felt addicted. These statistics are just for children and adolescents, some of which don’t even have their own phones (75% of teens have their own smart phones). Although rates continue to climb, currently children 0 to 8 spend an average of 48 minutes per day on a phone, adolescents 4 hours 36 minutes, and teens 6 hours and 40 minutes. This is just the amount on phones, not including screens used for TV and computer usage.
As parents we are constantly being told about these staggering, negative effects of screen time statistics on our children, but have you ever thought about the hypocrisy in this? We constantly tell our children “no screen time, go read a book, go outside and play,” and yet how much of this time are we mindlessly scrolling through social media on a smartphone, tablet or computer? The answer: over 4 hours a day. Although various studies cite slightly different amounts, every day American adults spend over four hours on their phone each day. The amount of time spent on smart phones continues to increase at alarming rates, whereas Apple and Google, who make their fortunes on digital usage are now implementing “digital wellness” programming on devices in order to help reduce the amount of time people spend on their phones. It goes without saying that the amount of time we spend on our phone is unhealthy; no wonder our children are following in our digital footsteps.
I was curious how much time I spent on my phone, and how this amount of influencing my ability to be mindful and fully engaged in the present. To determine and reduce the amount of time I use on my phone and digital media, I downloaded an app which tracks it all. Moment helps you track and identify how much time you spend on your phone and which apps you are most utilizing; it also provides a “coach” to help you reduce the time you spend on your phone and help you live in the moment. When I first downloaded the app, I was sure I would be under the national average; yet after the first day of seeing exactly how much time I spent mindlessly scrolling I was disgusted. When I got my first usage report, I was under the national average, but honestly with the average being that high, it still wasn’t anything to brag about. The hours each day wasted were alarming to me; what other activities could I be filling my time with rather than connected to my phone?
When raising children, there’s that old saying “The days are long, but the years are short,” and how much of that time are we focused on our phone and not the present, that we miss out on what is happening right in front of us? For me, the time was too much. Each day I find myself being constantly aware of each time I pick up my phone, and what exactly I’m doing on it; Is there something else of importance I could be doing or am I just bored and looking for something to occupy my time? It’s almost been a game to reduce my phone usage each day, and I have. In many ways, just having the app on my phone, and knowing that it is tracking my usage, makes me even more mindful of how I am using my time and if I am being truly present.
Have you ever thought about your much time you are really spending on your phone? I bet it’s more than you think. Imagine the possibilities if you put down your phone and were present in the world around you.