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Phone Time And Overall Health – What’s The Optimal Screen Time?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

As surviving with sanity becomes more and more challenging in the recent world, people are opting for the easy way out to stay occupied indoors. Spending lots of time watching tv or using phones is causing irreversible negative effects. The pandemic has pushed us into confinement and more than ever we feel the need and dependency on virtual life. Screen time is the total time spent per day in viewing screens such as mobile phones, TV, computer, tablet or any hand-held or visual device. 

It is time to ask the question, ”what is the ideal amount of screen time?” Let us find answers to what should an average screen time per day be for children and adults.

  • Children below the age of 2 years should not be exposed to any type of screen with the exception of an occasional video call with relatives.
  • Children in the age group of 2 to 5 years should have strictly limited screen time. They are extremely sensitive and may need to use screens for educational purposes but not as a time pass option. Playtime is important at this stage and must be given priority. Parents should be careful about not using screen time as entertainment for their children. WHO recommends 1 hour or less of screen time for children below 5 years of age.
  • Children who are older than 5 years may have more screen time. However, there must always be a limitation. You as a parent must set aside a specific time when they can be exposed to screens apart from educational purposes. Remember that it should not interfere with learning, relationships, family time, physical activity, playtime or sleep. Excessive screen time can affect both the physical and mental health of an individual. 2 hours of screen time is acceptable on school days and can be dragged up to 3 hours during the weekend. 
  • Adults tend to use screens for entertainment and interaction. They are usually at a higher risk of screen dependency. This is why it is important that they should limit screen time outside work. It must be less than two hours per day and anything beyond is considered harmful. Outside of work, you should not spend more than 2 hours on social media or watching movies/series on TV or OTT platforms. 

The negative effects of prolonged screen time are as follows:

1. Obesity

When you are looking at a screen, you usually remain in a particular position for an extended period of time. This means you have restricted movement and that can increase your risk of obesity. It can further cause chronic issues like heart disease. Being in front of a screen for a long time will likely lead to mindless snacking and usually make adults and children, obese.

2. Insomnia

Prolonged screen time evidently has a negative effect on your sleep. This applies to both children and adults. The blue light emitted by the screens can significantly lower the melatonin levels, a hormone that regulates when you sleep and wake up and this will disrupt your entire sleep cycle. 

3. Eye problems

One of the first and noticeable effects of too much screen time is impaired vision. The blue light can prove to be dangerous and eye strain often leads to dry eyes, blurry vision, irritation and burning sensations. 

4. Back and neck issues

If you continue to look at your phone, tablet or a tv screen for a really long time, it will put a lot of strain on your neck muscles and your spine. You will experience pain after sitting in a slumped posture for too long. This is common and likely results in frequent headaches and backaches. To avoid these, reducing screen time is a must.

5. Impact on behaviour and mental wellbeing

Excessive screen time can be addictive and has a negative impact on the mental health and behaviour of a person.

Recommended screen time Under 2 years old: Zero screen time, except for video chatting with family or friends.
2-5 years old: No more than one hour per day co-viewing with a parent or sibling.
5-17 years old: Generally no more than two hours per day, except for homework. more than 17 years max 3- 4 hrs per day

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Understanding how to reduce screen time for a healthy life.

  • It is necessary that you stop using screens prior to bedtime. You should ideally stay away from the screen, two hours or at least 30 minutes before sleep. Adults must make it a point to not use phones in bed, especially in a completely dark room.
  • Set a timer while watching tv or when using the phone. Take frequent breaks amidst using digital devices to go for a walk, workout or indulge in any other activity.
  • Exercising helps you to stay active and reduces chronic pain. 
  • When using your phone, make sure your eyes are at an arm’s distance.
  • It is best to turn off your phone before going off to sleep. It prevents distraction and helps you sleep better.
  • Be careful to not get addicted to screens. It will then control your mood and behaviour, result in poor cognition and you may also experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • Finding an alternative interesting physical activity to get engaged in can minimise the need of watching TV or phone.

Excess screen time may slow language development in children and make it hard for your child to sleep at night. Limiting screen time is very essential.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.


As we talk about the negatives of screen time, you must remember that it is not entirely a negative element. If you maintain the ideal screen time for yourself and train your children accordingly, you can derive several benefits from digital media. It helps you learn and stay connected with friends and relatives. It is okay to include screen time as a part of your daily activities but do not make it the only activity and increase dependency on it.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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