Do we control the time we spend with gadgets?

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 04.09.2021

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16 August 2021, 09:00

As numerous studies show, most people have no control over how much daily time they spend with gadgets and how long they look at the screens of a monitor or smartphone.

In medicine, there is such a concept as "screen time" - this is the time period during which a person is in front of the screen of a tablet, smartphone, computer or TV. It is no secret that such a period can be quite long, which has an extremely negative effect on many functions of the body. Long screen time is often associated not only with visual impairment, but also with the development of depressive conditions and neuroses, the appearance of asocial acts and suicidal thoughts, and the formation of attention deficit in childhood and adolescence. In addition, prolonged exposure to gadget screens negatively affects the quality of sleep and disrupts brain activity. Recently, both therapists and psychologists, as well as doctors of other fields, have been talking about this. There have been many studies showing a strong relationship between the length of screen time and the appearance of pronounced psychological problems.

However, not all and not always are able to correctly assess the screen time. Of course, you can trace it by the period of activity of the gadget. However, how real is such a subjective assessment? Scientists from the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Oslo have studied more than twelve thousand scientific materials on this topic. As a result, they singled out almost fifty of them, which make it possible to give a valid estimate of the real screen time.

The studied materials contained information about fifty thousand people: as it turned out, almost all of the assessments of the time spent in front of the screens did not correspond to reality. Scientists explain that the average user misjudges periods by overestimating or underestimating their duration. Only about 5% of the participants calculated the screen time relatively accurately.

Experts point out the need to clearly record the moment when the gadget is turned on and off, which is especially important for children and adolescents. In most cases, the duration of the screen time is underestimated, since only the longest period of stay in front of the screen is taken into account, not taking into account the periodic short "approaches". Without such information, it will not be possible to assess the likelihood of developing depressive states, feelings of uselessness and loneliness, and antisocial behavior.

Scientists note that it is necessary to conduct more such studies, to inform the public more about this problem, although this requires a lot of effort.

The details are described in the material of the periodical publication Nature Human Behavior .

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