Increased Screen Time During Covid

By Asim Mehmood

Pandemic took us by awe & caught everyone off guard, keeping us under its wrap and still we don’t know for how long it is going to stay put with us.During this time we exploited certain situations which we postulated would never be customary. However, we survived because we are living a triumph of evolution and hence, we transmogrify towards what’s better for our well being.

COVID practically feigned us to stay indoors and made our lives clogged for a while, nonetheless, it still goes on. Life never waits for circumstances to go back to normal, it’s us, people who bring our lives to a standstill.

During these challenging times, everything was digitally revolutionised and this was the basic rationale why there was a tremendous increase in screen time all over the globe.
One study that took reviews of more than 3000 parents, reported an enormous increase in the usage of digital screens by their children on all sorts of digital gadgets viz. mobiles, desktops, tablets and laptops by almost 500 percent!!

This situation is not only alarming but worrisome at the same time. Though it was the demand of time due to travel restrictions & widespread of COVID, not only students had to shift towards e-learning for formal education but all employers urged their workers to work from home while most of the businesses went online playing a paramount chunk of those increased stats.

Apart from this essential use of digital screens, people also turned to them for entertainment. There has also been a boom in the online entertainment industry during Covid. Many new online streaming platforms popped up all over the internet. Even previously existing platforms offered ridiculously low subscription rates and allured more viewers by giving them more options and new movies to watch, even the ones which were previously scheduled to be released in theaters but made their debut online, causing more of these weary people to watch them on their digital screens rather than waiting for the re-establishment of theaters post COVID. This all contributed to easy access to online streaming for the masses & leading to an increased expenditure of their valuable time watching their digital screens.

Moreover, video games consumption exploded during the covid. In 2020, almost $29.4 billion worth of video games were bought in the US and this accounts for a 23% increase in sales as compared to 2019. More so, this increase is not only limited to consoles but also to mobile phone games. There has been a 44% rise in sales of iPhone app store games in Japan in 2020. Thus, playing video games also increased screen time, especially among teenagers.

But all of this comes at a cost says Chee Wai Wong, Managing Director, and co-author who wrote a review paper during this time & published it in the American Journal of Ophthalmology stating his concern & likelihood of an extended battle against the COVID-19 virus due to usage of digital screens for prolonged durations causing a rise in the incidences of myopia that will shape a long-term behavioral change which would be conducive for the onset and progression of myopia.

“The available evidence suggests that screen time is related to obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, myopia, depression, sleep disorders, and lots of other non-communicable diseases” were also reported during a study conducted by Abida Sultana from the inquiry society of Bangladesh.
There is also enough data available to support this evidence that increased screen time also alters the sleep cycles which eventually leads to depression and anxiety. Due to this sedentary nature of utilization of digital screens, a rise in obesity among the general population is also seen. Moreover, increased time also impairs social skills due to solitary usage leading to antisocial behavior.

But as described earlier, we have to evolve with what we have got, so instead of completely obliterating the digital screen from our life we should now focus on having certain guidelines that we can follow such that it can have minimum effects on our body. We should all also try to incorporate the “20-20-20 Rule” according to which there should be a 20-second break after every 20 minutes while staring at an object which is 20 feet away. We should also monitor our screen time making sure that it should not be more than 2 hours.

Moreover, Digital screens should be used wisely and only when needed because there is no hiding from the fact that screen time has certainly increased during Covid pandemic and has shown its effects on the human body among all age groups. But the situation can be averted if the problem is shrewdly tackled by above suggested imperative precautions.

About The Author:

Asim Mehmood is a Medical student from Islamabad.