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News Article

Immediate, Long-Term Impact of Excessive Screen Time

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 08/10/2021 - 14:23

The isolation and lockdown measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic increased users’ screen time by at least 35 percent in Mexico. An excessive screen time can lead to several eyesight problems, which can later lead to complications such as computer eye strain syndrome.

Users self-reported an increase of screen time of 25-30 percent, according to The Newstack. This increase was mainly driven by:

  1. Remote work: This also increased bandwidth usage, with more employees connected through video conferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others. Employers spend at least 5.5 hours on the computer per day.
  2. Home Entertainment: As movie theaters, professional sports, bars and restaurants closed their doors during lockdown, users sought more home entertainment, increasing the time spent in streaming in websites like Netflix and Hulu, as well as internet games. Over 3 hours are spent on these activities per day.
  3. Social media: Traffic on social media sites also increased so family and friends could stay in touch. Every day, users registered 3.1 hours on social media and 4.85 hours on messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
  4. Online Education: Education at all levels went from face-to-face to online. Parents searched for educational resources and older students conducted research and classes on the Internet.

A survey by Universidad Panamericana carried out during the first months of the pandemic found that Mexican spent an average of 546 minutes or 9.1 hours each day on these devices. “That is, most of the day during this confinement they have spent in front of a screen,” said the survey.

“Digital screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a public health concern,” says a study by Neetu Purohit. One of the immediate manifestations of excessive use of digital screens are eyesight problems but in the long-run, excessive screen time can lead to obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, myopia, depression and sleep disorders. These problems have been increasing in frequency over the past few decades. Eyesight problems and digital strain are commonly in those who use a computer or digital device for long periods, says the Organization Cedar Sinai.

Digital eye strain is very common in both children and adults, symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, dry eye, eye discomfort, eye fatigue, eye itching, eye redness, eye tearing, headaches neck and shoulder pain. Treatment include resting the eyes at least 15 minutes after each 2 hours of computer or digital device use, looking into the distance at least 20 feet away from the computer or digital device for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes, reducing the glare from the light sources in the environment, blinking at least 15 times per minute, using lubricating drops or visiting an eye professional if needed.

Eye stain syndrome is not permanent and can stop by reducing and stopping an excessive use of screens. UAB Medicine found that early laboratory research using animal models suggested that excessive blue light exposure from digital screens could damage some sensitive cells in the retina, the layer of nerve cells behind the eyeball. No research has conclusively shown that blue light causes long-term harm, eye disease or retina damage.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst