The pandemic has made us more dependent on our smartphones and tablets, but there is a dark side to that
During this lockdown, many of us have accepted watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling through social media for hours and hours as the new “normal.” However, while doing so, what we failed to realize was that excessive screen time has now literally started to work as a digital drug for our brains that can damage our mental and physical health if not kept in check.
Screen addiction may provide users with a sense of temporary relief, but it only remains pleasant until the point when despite physical pain, such as headaches or strained eyes, users often find themselves unable to stop watching. In some cases, when deprived of screen time against their will, users even start exhibiting frustrating behaviour, which may be a sign of withdrawal.
In light of WHO’s recent statement regarding excessive screen time, it appears that such abuse may adversely affect relationships with others and may also cause uncontrollable emotional outbursts, eventually making screen time take priority “over the basic functions, such as eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, and exercise.”
Before this new digital drug takes a greater toll on our lives, it is time we start taking steps to prevent such unpleasant consequences. From my personal experience, I can tell that the first step should be acknowledgment.
Because, without accepting that such behaviour is in fact problematic, the user won’t be able to continue working on any sort of prescribed solution for too long. The next step can be a search for an alternative source of recreation in order to make the reduction of screen time less upsetting. For example, taking part in some interactive games with family members, or adopting a new hobby, such as paper crafting.
Step 3 should be working on the surrounding environment. The user needs to make sure he stays in a room with access of plenty of daylight. Devices such as laptops and smartphones need to be charged in a different room. Logging out of Netflix and all such other accounts from all devices except the one in the living room is also an effective step in preventing binge-watching.
Logging out of social media accounts every time after using it is a good idea too, since the necessity to enter the same ID-password again and again will automatically make the experience less pleasant. Finally, making changes to one’s phone’s screen can help too. Believe it or not, the icons on our phones are designed to look cute on purpose, so that we feel this compulsion to tap them every now and then.
Hence, it is a good idea to turn the phone gray or simply switch to the dark theme. This way, the screen of the phone will appear less attractive when looked at. It is also good to keep only the most important apps on the screen and remove the rest.
According to WHO, children under 24 months should not be allowed screen time at all, and for children between the ages two and four, it should be kept limited to one hour only. Those who are above this age range should also be allowed with only as much as needed for maintaining a healthy balance between online and offline activities.
Screen addiction in recent days has become a threat as real as Covid-19. If we still keep denying the harm done by it, even after the WHO’s warning statement, another pandemic may not be too far away.
Atia Amana Azizee is currently working as a part-time faculty for University of London international Programs at BAC Law Study Centre; and also serving as full-time Principal Officer at Law & Recovery Division in National Bank Limited.