“This past year, American teens and pre-teens spent an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen.”
So writes Auguste Meyrat, a teacher, in his online article about tech addiction and our young people. They “are glued to their devices, playing video games, scrolling through social media, and streaming videos.”
The harm done by this fixation, which the coronavirus pandemic only worsened, is immense. These same kids are missing out on face-to-face interactions, outdoor sports and play, reading, and any number of other activities. Most observers, especially parents, agree that this addiction—there’s no better name for it—is unhealthy.
But what about adults and our screens?
Reid Health Services reports that we’re riding the same dopamine train as the kids. In addition to using electronic gadgets for work, we spend hours each day looking up news, connecting with social media, and just bouncing around on our phones and computers. Often we’re at their beck and call, breaking off conversations, interrupting our chores, and telling others “Wait just a minute” while we look at a text or a missed call.
And as Reid Health tells us, the ills inflicted by our digital devices are consequential. We damage our eyesight and strain our back and neck muscles. We dislocate our cognitive thinking skills and entertain insomnia and depression, and our sedentary ways can lead to obesity and stiff joints.
Outside of the workplace, Reid recommends no more than two hours per day of screen time. The hours saved would be better spent in physical activities, ranging from tennis to cleaning the kitchen and vacuuming the living room.
Good advice, but easier said than done.
The guy who busts his chops all day laying brick comes home, pops open a Bud, flops down on the sofa, and watches television until bedtime. The ER nurse working the 3–11 shift may want nothing more than a glass of wine and a few hours on Facebook. The bank manager buries his burdens by answering emails and texts from family and friends, and then watching bands from his college days on YouTube.
Cutting back our screen play is tough. For many of us, clicking a remote or keys on a laptop is a lot more appealing than digging in the garden, reading a book, or dealing with household finances. We wipe away stress with our machines, much as some might do with a good slug of bourbon.
But a few simple tricks can help restore some balance in our lives.
Leave the phone in the car. When we’re heading into the grocery store, ditch the phone. That 30-minute shopping trip then means half an hour without temptation.
Ditto when taking a walk or mucking about in the yard. Leave the phone behind.
Reduce our time on social media or cut it out altogether. A couple of years ago, I quit going to my Facebook page and didn’t miss it one whit. TikTok? Twitter? No thanks. At my age, time is as precious as gold, and I don’t want to spend it dinking around on a phone.
“Enough is enough.” I write on a laptop. Two or three times a day, I’ve learned to click out of all sites, close down, and just say, “That’s it for a while.” I also frequently push away from my desk and stand and stretch, or find something else to do for a few minutes—tidying up the living room, washing the dishes, even just sitting on the porch—to get me away from the keyboard.
“A man’s true delight,” wrote Marcus Aurelius, “is to do the things he was made for.”
I appreciate my computer, but we were not made for our machines. They were made for us.
Let’s treat them as the servants they are.