Screen Addiction: Recognizing And Defusing It

Treat yourself to a digital detox at least for the weekend

It’s probably not news to anyone that almost all of us are addicted to our phones (if you don’t agree, you’re probably in denial). The good news is that you’re not alone, and the ubiquity of the problem has got the best scientific minds interested in it. The bad news is that the same scientific minds believe that screen addiction is harder to get rid of than drug addiction.

The average teenager looks at a screen for about 11 hours a day. Aside from the fact that this time could be spent walking, studying, live interaction with other people, there is an additional complication. Research has shown that such behaviour is directly linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, increased aggression and even psychosis. For adults, the prognosis is not much better.

So what should you do? Acknowledge the problem, read the checklist of symptoms and… love boredom.

Is screen addiction different for children and adults? What qualifies as unhealthy use of technology for adults?

Adults have a fully developed frontal cortex, so neurophysiologically they are better equipped for screen exposure than children. Even so, they too can become addicted to gadgets. The clinical manifestations are similar at any age. Does the phone have a negative impact on your work/personal life? Putting your hand on your heart, can you control the number of hours you spend in front of a screen? Does using your phone/tablet reduce the amount and quality of your sleep? Do you experience irritability if you are away from your gadget? The answers will be the same for most addicted children and adults.

Is screen addiction linked to other unhealthy behaviours?

Several studies link excessive “hanging out” on social media to poor academic performance, aggressive sexual behaviour and other behavioural problems. In adults, so-called Facebook depression, caused by comparing oneself to others, and increased anxiety are common problems.

What should people who are highly addicted to gadgets do?

In extreme cases, the following therapy may be suggested: giving up screens, including television, for a period of four to six weeks. The key to success will be the proper replacement of the freed up time, ideally with meaningful and healthy activities. For example, meditation.

After such a detox, a person gradually brings gadgets back into their life, keeping a close eye on the moment they start falling into the black hole of social media. Some people manage to use them in moderation, others do not. Another fact: Digital detoxes are more effective under the supervision of a mental health professional.

What should adults who feel they could benefit from less screen time do?

If you feel you could do with less screen time, try getting into the habit of fixed time slots during the day and gadget-free dinners at home.

Don’t leave your phone on your bedside table.

Increase the number of activities not related to your phone: sports or any active leisure time, one-to-one meetings with friends, reading, walking.

Love the boredom. We’re used to the idea that we need to be stimulated all the time. But that’s not true; the healthiest skill we can develop is learning to just sit and ‘be’. It is this being in the moment that meditation teaches. As the mindfulness guru John Kabat-Zinn once said, we have become human doings rather than human beings.