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The Psychology of Screens

No breaking news here: we are surrounded by technology and screens.

For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend and I went to a casual restaurant. There was some live music, good food, and the most romantic: college basketball on the TVs all over the place. We don’t even really like college basketball but found ourselves unintentionally glancing up at the TVs at one point. We try to keep each other accountable when it comes to staying present, but this really made us laugh and think, why are the TVs even on right now?!

The Research

What you probably already know: We should limit the screen time of our children. It’s bad for their brain development.

What you might not know: It affects us adults too!

Here’s what some recent research says:

  • Does your neck hurt? It might have something to do with looking down at your phone screen all the time. Our use of technology affects our muscles and bones in way our body was not designed, and can cause harm to us physically.

  • You are more likely to be harmed driving or walking while looking at a screen.

  • You are perceived as less trustworthy and less professional if you are looking at a screen during an important conversation.

  • The longer you look at a screen, the harder your eyes work, which can cause strain and headaches.

  • Too much information on one screen, or using multiple screens, overloads us. So, even though we feel like we are taking in a lot, we are not really learning as much as we would if we just focused on one thing.

  • Using a screen to do something actually reduces our attention to the task at hand.

  • Computer and TV screens are one of the most common activities in a lifestyle that can contribute to premature death and chronic disease.

Real Life Takeaway

Now don’t get me wrong, technology is amazing. I could do a whole post on the positives of technology as well. But those screens can come with a cost too. How do we balance this?

My boyfriend and I have recently implemented the “one-screen rule”: One screen at a time. Are we watching a movie? OK, then no scrolling Facebook on your phone. Are we lesson planning on our laptops? OK, then no TV on in the background. This has been a significant and even life-giving change for me. Having a conversation over the dinner table rather than scrolling through out daily news app helps us feel more connected.

We still need reminders. It’s hard when you start noticing how often we are looking at screens. We hear about limiting screen time from doctors and psychologists all the time. Being my own worst enemy sometimes, here is what I found works for me: Have someone keep you accountable. Your parent, your partner, or even your child (we know their brutal honestly can help sometimes) can support you in kicking the habit.

Be present. In a world of multi-tasking, challenge yourself to do one thing at a time.


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