Screen Time and Mental Health: Creating Healthful Habits

mental health wellness Jul 19, 2023

The technological advances of the past few decades have impacted our lives in more ways than we can count. They’ve simplified the way we communicate, given us access to an endless supply of information and provided us with entertainment at our fingertips. While many of these advancements have been positive, one of the more controversial downsides has been an increase in screentime for kids and adults alike.  

Screen time, especially during the more unstructured summer months, can be a challenge for many families – bringing up questions such as ‘How much is too much?’ or ‘How is this impacting my (or my child’s) mental health?’ Let's dive into the relationship between screen time and overall wellness. We'll focus on the significance of creating and maintaining strong routines in all seasons and providing tangible tips on how to create healthy habits that promote a balanced lifestyle. 

The Screen Time-Mental Health Connection 

Research has consistently shown that excessive screen time can have detrimental effects on our wellness. A study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports found that higher levels of screen time were associated with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety among young adults (Twenge et al., 2018). The constant exposure to social media, virtual worlds, and the pressure to constantly be connected can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and isolation.  

Additionally, research has shown that high levels of screen time can disrupt our sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and further exacerbating mental health issues. The blue light emitted by screens can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, making it more difficult to fall asleep and achieve restful sleep (Chang et al., 2015). 

How Much Is Too Much? 

The question of how much screen time is considered "too much" is a common concern. While there isn't a specific universally defined threshold, it is generally recommended to limit screen time to ensure a healthy balance in our lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines suggesting a consistent limit (key word: consistent!) for older children and teenagers, taking into consideration their developmental stage and individual needs. However, it's important to recognize that the impact of screen time on mental health varies from person to person. Factors such as the content consumed, the quality of interactions, and the overall balance between screen activities and other aspects of life all play a role in determining the effects of screen time.  

Routine & Screen Time 

Picture this: you wake up in the morning, grab your phone, and within minutes, you're sucked into the never-ending scroll of social media. Before you know it, hours have passed, and your carefully planned morning routine has gone out the window. Sound familiar?  

It's no secret that screen time and routines have a tricky relationship. On one hand, screens can be a major distraction, throwing off our carefully crafted schedules. But on the other hand, routines can actually help us manage our screen time. By establishing consistent habits and setting boundaries, we can regain control over our days and ensure that screens don't hijack our lives. So, whether it's designating specific times for screen use or integrating screen-free activities into our routines, finding a balance between our digital world and the structure of our everyday lives is key. 

Tips to Create Balanced & Healthful Habits

With flexibility in our summer schedules, now is a great time to build positive habits in your life. Let’s identify some tangible tips for finding balance between screens and your overall wellness. 

  • Set Limits: Whether for yourself or your kids, start by setting realistic limits on daily screen time. Create a schedule that incorporates designated time for activities, hobbies, socializing, and screen use. Write down your schedule and place it somewhere where you can see it every day.  
  • Practice mindful screen use: Before reaching for your phone or turning on a screen, ask yourself if it aligns with your intentions and priorities. Be mindful of the content you consume and the purpose behind your screen time. Set specific goals for screen use, such as limiting social media scrolling to a certain duration or allocating time for educational or productive activities. Check out this resource for guidance on this! 
  • Use technology to enhance well-being: Instead of viewing technology as solely a source of distraction, leverage it to support your mental and physical health. Explore fitness apps or online workout classes to stay active. Discover meditation or mindfulness apps to incorporate relaxation into your daily routine. One of our favorites here at Simply Bee is Insight Timer! 
  • Practice Mindfulness: Dedicate time to mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga. These activities help reduce stress, enhance focus, and promote a sense of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of summer. Check out our 5 Ways To Safely Move Your Body e-book for some daily restorative practices from our Resident Yoga Instructor Stephanie Bersh, E-RYT. 
  • Outdoor Exploration: Take advantage of warm summer weather by getting outside. Plan hikes, nature walks, or trips to local parks. Spending time in nature encourages physical activity, releases endorphins that boost our mood, and offers a peaceful and rejuvenating environment for mental well-being – all of which help combat the negative effects of screen time.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Good quality sleep is vital for both your physical and mental health. Establish a consistent sleep routine by setting (and following) regular bedtimes and creating a peaceful sleep environment. Minimize screen use before bedtime to ensure a restful night's sleep. For more tips on creating a good sleep routine, check out this Youtube video! 

Finding Balance

As technology continues to become more and more integrated in our lives, it's crucial to maintain a healthy balance between screen time and other activities in support of our mental well-being. This summer is a great time to start the process of setting appropriate limits, prioritizing physical activity and mindfulness, and building strong routines. 

By being mindful and intentional with screen time, we can nurture our mental health, create lasting memories, and embrace the joys of the present moment.  


Want to get clear and intentional with screen time in your life this summer? Download this resource for journaling prompts and a daily planner to help you set limits and achieve your goals. 


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