Square-eyed warnings may be losing their impact as elementary school-age children have seen the largest increase in daily screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new study has found that children between the ages of six and 10 stare at screens for an hour and 23 minutes longer every day – the largest increase of any population group.
But increases have been observed in all age groups, including adults, according to scientists at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
This was not only due to the longer time spent in front of the screen at work or school, but also the leisure time in front of the screen increased across all age groups.
Researchers found that increases in screen time were associated with negative effects on diet, sleep, mental health, and eye health in both children and adults.
In children, a significant association was also found between screen time and behavior problems such as aggression and temper tantrums.
A new study has found that children between the ages of six and 10 stared at screens for an hour and 23 minutes longer every day during the pandemic – the biggest leap of any demographic
However, an increase in daily screen time has been observed in all post-COVID age groups, including adults, according to scientists at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge
DAILY SCREEN TIME INCREASES DURING THE PANDEMIC
Total screen time
Under 5 years: 35 minutes
Age 6-10: 83 minutes
Age 11-17: 55 minutes
Age 18+: 58 minutes
Free time screen time
Under 5 years: 35 minutes
Age 6-10: 60 minutes
Age 11-17: 30 minutes
Age 18+: 42 minutes
Lead author Professor Shahina Pardhan, director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at the university, said: “This study is the first of its kind to examine systematically peer-reviewed research on increasing screen time during the pandemic and its implications.
“By bringing together numerous studies, we get a much more accurate picture of screen time in the population and the associated health effects.
“As with any study of this type, there are differences between the research findings examined.
“However, the bigger picture provides clear evidence that screen time should be reduced whenever possible to minimize potential negative consequences.
“These include poor dietary behaviors, sleep, mental health and effects on eye health.
“It’s also important that non-sedentary activities are encouraged to mitigate the risks of prolonged screen time.”
The researchers analyzed the results of 89 different studies that focused on increasing screen time before and during the pandemic up to December 2021.
This resulted in a total sample size of more than 200,000 people.
Adults saw the second largest increase in time spent looking at screens, such as televisions and computers, after primary school-age children.
Screen time for the over-18s increased by 58 minutes, and those aged 11-17 took third place with a jump of 55 minutes.
The study found that children under the age of five increased their screen time by the smallest amount, by 35 minutes.
Screen time during leisure time or outside of work or study also increased across all age groups, but the largest increase was again among primary school-aged children
Data published today in eClinicalMedicine shows that recreational screen time, or screen time unrelated to work or study, has also increased across all age groups.
Again, children between the ages of six and ten showed the largest increase of 60 minutes per day, and adults took second place with an increase of 42 minutes.
Increased screen time has been found to be associated with poorer diets in children and poorer eye health, such as myopia.
It also relates to the deterioration in children’s mental health, including anxiety, and behavioral problems such as aggression, irritability, and increased frequency of temper tantrums.
The research further identified correlations between more screen time and negative adult outcomes.
These included negative effects on their diet, eye health, and mental health, such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
It also impacted the broader health of adults, including fatigue, decreased physical activity, and weight gain.
HOW CAN YOU SPEND LESS TIME ONLINE?
Being “on” all the time can have serious effects on our mind and body, which is why a world-renowned personal trainer and health writer shared his tips for a digital detox.
Adelaide-born PT James Duigan, 42, is the former personal trainer to Elle Macpherson and his words are often taken as gospel, having also worked with the likes of Emilia Clarke, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lara Stone.
Although many of us connect with people online and check out social media, Mr. Duigan believes we’ve never been lonelier:
“The main culprits are social media and our cell phones. They can bring global communities together and provide an uninterrupted source of inspiration at its best,” he said.
“But at worst, they can be a constant nuisance, a constant distraction and keep you from living in the present.
“Even a quick scroll before bed can keep you up at night or send your self-esteem plummeting when you’re bombarded with Insta butts and impossible abs.”
Mr Duigan explained that social media platforms were purposely built to be addictive as every notification brings the “happy hormone”.
In a blog post on his website Bodyism, James shared his top three tips for digital detox.
As with any cold turkey experience, weaning yourself off social media can be difficult — but the trick is to replace the addiction with something else.
“Use an app called Freedom to block your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter apps for as long as you need — or can take it,” suggested Mr. Duigan.
The app lets you choose how long you want to block certain apps for – meaning you can slowly persuade yourself to block them for longer.
His second step is simple: just unsubscribe.
“By putting that extra step between you and your ‘feed,’ you can resist the lure of mindlessly scrolling when your resolve wanes,” he said.
Mr. Duigan’s third and final step is to be in the moment and make sure you are attuned to what is going on around you.
‘No pictures. No selfies. No boomerangs. No snapchats. At least for a day. Don’t lose the moment trying to capture it,” he said.
‘Live in the moment and he will be remembered for a long time.’