Ever growing in our modern lifestyle is time spent staring at screens. “Screen time” is defined as any time spent looking at a computer screen, television, game console or phone. If we break it down, for example an office worker can spend anywhere up to 9 hours a day sitting at a computer. Then only to go home and later watch 2-3 hours of television, this is not incorporating time spent on their phones in their breaks, sitting on the couch speaking to friends and using social media. That can be well over 10 hours of screen time per day. That equates to 100 uninterrupted days in a year staring at a screen, possibly more in younger generations.

Many studies into the effects of screen time have been conducted on children. Direct links have been found between TV viewing and obesity. With the literature showing that time spent in front of a TV is displacing other healthier alternatives such as free play and structured physical activity. The negative impacts include, increased snacking, increased demand for energy dense foods which are heavily advertised but with no capacity to burn the increased calories consumed.

Excessive TV has been linked to other negative outcomes such as poor cognitive performance, antisocial behavior and reduced sleep time. Research now indicates that for every hour of television children watch each day, their risk of developing attention-related disorders later increases by ten percent. For example, if a child watches three hours of television each day, the child would be thirty percent more likely to develop attention deficit disorder. This is not TV specific, but also includes iPads, iPods, smart phones, tablets and gaming consoles.

In both adults and children recent evidence shows people exhibiting separation anxiety and the same signs of withdrawal as associated with drug addiction, when separated from their mobile phones. Australian guidelines suggest children aged 5-18, should have no more than 2 hours of screen time per day (excluding educational purposes). Children under 2 should not have any screen time, and those aged 2-5 years old should have less than 1.

A great exercise is to see how much time you and your family spend looking at screens per day and then working out how many full days that equates to per year. The results can be quite eye opening. Living in a modern world it seems some is unavoidable, but we should all take steps to ensure we do what we can to limit and control this growing addiction.