Effects of too much screentime

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Illustration by Alison Rivero

Because of virtual learning, students spend even more hours in front of their computer screens. According to the Sleep Foundation, the blue light that’s emitted from these screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule.

Cindy Rojas, Writer

A Vision Council study has found that about 59 percent of Americans experience symptoms of eye strain from being in front of a screen for too long. While the use of technology has increased due to the recent pandemic, a question that arises is whether too much screen time affects one’s health.

The recent pandemic has forced students and teachers to continue through distance learning. This has caused a rise in the use of technology. Whether having to sit in front of a screen is good for you or not, it is certainly a question many ask themselves.

Most students are constantly staring at a screen for 8 hours during school, not including the time they spend on homework. Too much time in front of a screen can actually cause significant side effects, with one being a  disruption of sleep patterns.

 The brain produces melatonin, a hormone that signals when our body should fall asleep. As a result, too much screen time can alter sleeping patterns, as they are disrupted by the use of devices before sleep. This makes it difficult for students to focus in class and retain the information that is being taught to them.

“Exposure to [computer] light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms,” noted Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher in the article “Blue Light Has a Dark Side.” Lockley went on to explain that if this interferes enough with your sleep pattern, you can risk developing depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. 

The way a person sleeps can determine how well they concentrate on their daily activities and how well they are able to retain information that they are taught. An excessive amount of screen time can overstimulate the nervous system, causing an alteration in a person’s sleeping patterns which then affect their performance in activities.

“Staring at a screen all day has caused me to experience side effects,” said junior Taylor Miller. “ This then lowered my ability to focus in class.”

Side effects such as eye strain can occur from prolonged screen time. According to EHS Today, statistics show that about 58 percent of Americans experience eye strain or other eye vision problems from staring at a screen for too long.  As a result of the global pandemic, the side effects of excessive screen time are becoming more common.

“Some of us are using these things for up to nine hours a day,” noted Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthalmology professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in an interview with CBS News. “Your eye muscles have to focus at that near range and that can be fatiguing.”

Students, as well as teachers, have to stay in front of a screen for a very long time with barely any breaks in between, even after school hours are done. Their attention is so focused on the screen in front of them that they often disregard how their eye vision is being overworked to where eye strain is caused.

Symptoms of headaches and other side effects have been reported by students who have experienced them after long hours of screen time. Many students have started to suffer from migraines. Those who already suffer from them have found that their headaches have intensified from the excessive amount of time in front of a screen.

“I already suffer from chronic migraines,” said sophomore Mayleen Hernandez. “So looking at a screen for too long makes them worse.” 

Despite these side effects, there are tips on how to avoid or at least diminish the chances of experiencing them. For example, to diminish the chances of experiencing eye strain, it is recommended to look away from your screen for at least 10 seconds every 20 minutes.

It is also recommended to avoid any digital screens at least 30 minutes before going to bed in order to experience better sleep quality. Many experts suggest that the usage of proper lighting and modification of the brightness settings of your computer in order to avoid eye strain.

As the pandemic caused a rise in screen time, it is important to take into consideration one’s health and how it will be affected by the excessive use of technology. Students and teachers should remember to take breaks and follow the suggested recommendations in order to diminish the side effects.

For more information:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/