Time to Unplug? Screen Time is Taking a Toll

In 1985, the average American family spent about 5 hours a day watching television, which adds up to 35 hours a week and 1,082 hours a year. If you do the math, that equals 75 full days each year doing nothing but watching TV. 

That seems like a lot of time. But wait. This is 2020, and there’s a reason we’re feeling bombarded by bad news and endless information. That was 35 years ago, before the Internet and before I-phones. I hope you’re sitting down!

A recent study by Vision Direct reveals some alarming findings. During the typical adult lifespan – and this year has been anything but typical – for business, home, and entertainment, a person will experience more than 13 hours a day of screen time. And since teenagers use overlapping forms of media throughout the day, they are often plugged into something for up to 18 hours a day!

There are many Bible verses having to do with managing our time and loving God more than the things of this world. Ephesians 5:15-17 states:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 

You might say, ‘but in those days, people didn’t even have electricity let alone I-phones.’ You’re right. And they probably had more peace and less stress in their lives.

Back to this study. The findings conclude that when we die, “the typical person will spend a staggering 34 years looking at phones, computers or televisions.”

We were already glued to some form of technology or communication BC – Before the Coronavirus – so now, screen times have spiked even higher.

With all the “safer at home” propaganda and public ordinances, there are fewer opportunities to get out of the house to school, sporting events, concerts, work, and even for church activities.

Health concerns don’t stop with our sedentary lifestyle and our mental health, but what about our eyes? People admit that screens are straining their eyes, but just four out of ten said they rarely stop to give their eyes a rest. 

Today’s kids often spend more time on their devices without breaks. But since many parents have a similar issue or maybe even a tech addiction, only one third of moms and dads surveyed said they felt empowered to tell their children to take a break and turn off their screens.

I think we all could use a break from the noise and distractions of the day.

For help with your kids, Focus on the Family has A Parents Guide to Screen Time During Coronavirus.” There’s practical advice on how to set boundaries regarding devices and some suggestions on what to do instead.

Here are some quick tips we can all do today to at least rest our eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Vision Direct recommends for every 20 minutes on a device, look away from the screen for 20 seconds – at something that’s 20 feet away. Your eyes will thank you.

But there’s a bigger problem with how technology affects our overall health. God didn’t wire us to bear the burdens of the world’s evil. With the 24-7 news cycle and some kind of bad news taking place in some part of the world every day, even every hour, our awareness of this can weigh us down.

It’s enough to worry about your family’s immediate concerns and about your community. We weren’t supposed to carry and respond to so many other burdens. Technology is a blessing and often helps us, but it also creates issues with people’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

In a thought-provoking article at Stand To Reason, Alan Shlemon notes that because of the internet and social media, technology has given us front row seats to every event, tragedy, and evil act that happens in any part of the planet. That’s not something we’re created to handle.  He writes:

No matter where it happens, we see it. It’s like we’re everywhere; …Finite humans, though, are not God. We don’t have the capacity to handle inordinate amounts of evil; Because we “witness” these events, we’re expected to know the truth about what happened…

While I agree it’s important to learn from tragic events that occur outside our immediate community, we can become overwhelmed by the barrage of negative news.

I don’t doubt that scientific advancements have helped us communicate, protect people, care for vulnerable people, and do many other good things. …Progress, though, often comes with a price. 

Experience tells us that evil takes a toll on our souls.

Only God is all-knowing and capable of handling the world’s cares, which is why the Bible teaches us not to conform to this world and be overcome by evil. We are to overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:2, 21)

Then there’s the online debating and commenting on everything from mask mandates, power-hungry governors and the National Anthem, to religious freedom, church issues, Biden, Trump, and the 2020 election.

Things can pile up quickly adding another layer of stress. So here are some suggestions:

  • Unplug from the internet and/or social media – and not only when your phone is charging.
  • Plan times to get up and walk away without taking sneak peeks.
  • Spend time outside, preferably in nature. Take-in God’s creation.
  • Pray, really, about when you can shoulder other people’s burdens, and find friends who can help carry yours. This is a biblical mandate.

Consider this a reminder about better time management in this high-tech age, and understand we were created to work and worship, not bear the world’s burdens.

The Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens – which is hard to do when we’re weighed down by the world – and to give thanks in all things.

Jesus is the ultimate burden-bearer because His shoulders were the only ones big and strong enough to take on the sins of the world that we might be saved. He promises us rest for our weary souls if we would just come to Him. (Matthew 11:29-30)

Video courtesy of Freedom Project Media

ARTICLES referenced:

Thirty-Four Years on Screens?!

A Parents Guide to Screen Time During Coronavirus – Focus on the Family resource

How 2020 is Taking a Toll on your Soul

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