The Pandemic’s Effect on our Screen Time

By Michael Gleason

COVID-19 has no doubt shook our way of life. We’ve had to adjust ask-wearing and social distancing in public areas, no indoor dining at restaurants for a time, and having to quarantine ourselves at our homes for several months. With many businesses, schools and universities also shutting down, many people’s jobs and educations had to transition to an all-online format. Technology such as computers, tablets and smartphones have been ingrained in our society for a long time now, but since the pandemic hit, they now play an even more crucial role in our lives.

In 2019, Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping parents and children navigate media, found that nearly 62% of US teens spend more than four hours a day in front of screens and 29% of US teens spend more than eight hours a day in front of screens. Clearly, people, especially teenagers and young adults, have had a problem with being in front of screen-based technology even before the pandemic hit. This has been an ongoing issue for a long time now. But with the pandemic disrupting our usual way of life when it comes to having to travel somewhere to go to work and/or continue our studies, staring at a screen has become even more prevalent in our day-to-day lives than it has ever been.

We don’t just stare at screens because we need to, we also turn to screen-based technology for entertainment. With the pandemic came more free time for a lot of people. When lockdown mandates were at their peak, many were left to stay at home all day. This naturally leads one to turn to devices such as their smartphones, computers and TVs for entertainment. They could do things like binge shows, browse the Internet or play video games to pass the time. In May 2020, when we were at the height of having to stay in our homes. JAMA Pediatrics found in a study written by Jason M. Nagata that children aged 12 to 13-years-old have spent roughly 7.7 hours a day in front of a screen.

A Cambridge and Iowa State University study conducted between April 3rd through April 7th of 2020 surveyed 3,052 U.S. adults and found that their physical activity reduced by 32.3% due to the pandemic. It was also found that these adults had spent more than 8 hours a day of sitting and more than 8 hours a day of being in front of a screen.

Children and adults alike have relied heavily on screen-based technology for a long time now. Smartphones, computers and TVs have become so ingrained in our society that living a life without them just is not feasible. Jobs and the education system have relied heavily on them far before the pandemic began, but now the problem has exacerbated. We now have less of a reason to leave our homes with many jobs and schools/colleges shifting to an online format. Life could possibly have permanently changed in this regard. People are starting to view having to go to an office for their desk job or a school or college to attain an education as unnecessary. Whether or not we decide to permanently embrace this change is something only time will tell. Any long-term health effects that are a consequence of such a lifestyle is also something time will tell.

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