Last year, I upgraded my computer’s hardware to effectively run most of the games that I want or already have. As much as I would like to play games all the time, reality often comes calling, and it requires a modicum of self-discipline to get back to my responsibilities. Hence, I must constantly manage how much screen time I spend, gaming or otherwise.
I benefit from being born when devices were not so commonplace and growing up to see them slowly permeate our lives to this very day. It helps me to reflect on my experiences and see how these devices have changed the way we live, work, and play. One question that keeps popping up is how much screen time we can afford, especially given electronic devices’ deep integration into everyday tasks. Here are the three areas I believe are a good starting point for managing one’s screen time.
It is easy to spend an awful amount on our devices. Screen time can take up a significant portion of our day if we are not careful, especially with the immersive and widespread forms of entertainment. Even at work, we see a definite shift towards virtual, online-based tasks that require us to use a computer or smart device. As such, we spend a good portion of our life looking at electronic screens, which can put a lot of strain on our eyes.
In my time in school, I found that I did an increasing number of assignments on the computer, which meant that I was spending a lot more time sitting down. I would spend hours sitting to settle my homework and then playing computer games with my friends. Too much screen time without actively managing your physical activity can also bring about numerous health detriments, such as muscle strains and increased risk of chronic health issues.
A good tip is to follow the 20-20-20 rule while using devices; by taking 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away for every 20 minutes of screen time, you can reduce the amount of eye strain you take from staring at a screen. Remember to incorporate physical activity in your routine, perhaps by standing up and walking around your room, even if for a minute or two. For me, this helped break the monotony of doing work, and in some cases, helped clear my mind to think better about the task at hand.
When I met my new friends for the first time during an outing we organized for our co-curricular activity, I remember one of them half-jokingly told me to ‘put down my phone and relearn how to interact with people’. While she accepted my clarification that I did not want to interrupt the ongoing conversation, she did make a good point; becoming reliant on my phone in social situations was awkward at best and rude at worst.
We often hear complaints of how people pay more attention to their phones than they do to people. Time spent on our devices eats into the time we invest into our relationships with others or undercuts the respect they are due. Given that our devices are our link to work, school, or play, their presence becomes intrusive if our behavior is unchecked. I have been guilty of bringing my phone to the table while eating more than once, and while this phenomenon is also typical amongst my peers, more recently, there is a growing consciousness to rein in such activity.
Despite this, our devices can facilitate the formation of new relationships or upkeep our existing ones. Our technology has advanced to a point where interaction through screen time is a viable replacement for face-to-face interaction; indeed, it is an upgrade from previous forms of archaic communication like letter-writing and emails. Screen time thus can enhance human interaction if we learn how to plan for it and harness the power of our devices, rather than letting technology encroach onto our free will.
An honest look
Deciding the appropriate amount of screen time varies from person to person. Back in school, I knew many peers who played a lot of games just like me. Yet, our academic results and social standing were often widely varied; some people seemed to play games for long hours at a time but continue to attain stellar results. Others, like me, tended to regress in academics if we increased our screen time.
Realistically, the differing capabilities of each person require a different time management process for every individual and often intersects with our personal goals. Screen time is not inherently harmful; the use of our devices can bring immense benefits and fulfillment to one’s life if managed correctly, but such a process requires a genuine, honest, and unbiased self-evaluation. Am I truly capable of attaining certain results while maintaining a specific amount of screen time? Can I upkeep a healthy lifestyle in all aspects (mentally, physically, socially) while spending so much time on my devices? If not, perhaps some adjustments are required.
In the long term, is achieving these results the desirable outcome? If not, do you require more adjustments to your daily routine to put more effort into your work than on your screens? Planning for critical future milestones can help you craft your daily routine and time management, including how much screen time you can afford every day.
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