Symptoms of Too Much Screen Time

Symptoms of screen use in kids and research on screens and development in children and teens.

Did you know there are specific symptoms of too much screen time that you’ve probably experienced? You’ve probably seen or experienced the symptoms of too much screen time. Blurry eyes, a muddled mind, difficulty with focus, trouble stopping the screens and behaviors when asked to stop…But what are others experiencing when it comes to screen time overload?

As a related resource, this screen time checklist can be helpful in assisting children and teens to complete a certain amount of non-screen tasks before getting access to their devices. Another comprehensive and powerful resource when it comes to screen time is this digital devastations course for therapists and parents.

Part of understanding the symptoms of screen time overload is getting on board with being a tech wise family. Just reading about these ideas and tips and getting to know the impact that technology time has on development is a great first step.

Symptoms of too much screen time

How do screens really impact our kids? And, exactly how much screen time is too much? Is it really that bad if our kids watch movies and play video games all summer? Today, I’m detailing all about what the research tells us about screens, and what evidence we have on the symptoms of screen use in children and teenagers.

Screen time symptoms include:

  • headache
  • blurry eyes
  • foggy brain
  • eye strain
  • sleep issues
  • tantrums
  • emotional skills and emotional development
  • issues with problem solving skills
  • weight
  • physical health

More common struggles are listed below when it comes to specific screen time symptoms.

This blog post is part of a short series I’m sharing on screens and the devastating impact that they have on our children. I’m very excited to share with you a powerful tool that we can use to make a positive change in our kids. One that can impact our community and our children’s futures.

We share some of the impact of screentime in our graphic below:

Symptoms of screen use in kids and research on screens and development in children and teens.

Average Screen Time

We know first hand that children today are using screens more and more. Whether it’s online learning, entertainment apps and games, watching videos, or playing with friends, screens are a part of our kids’ daily lives.

Unlike kids of just a few years ago, children today have online learning, internet-based supplemental activities, learning apps, and screen-based reading on phones and tablets.

With the sudden onset of distance learning and telehealth, kids are on screens, tablets, phones, and computers more now then ever before. Online classroom lessons and therapy sessions are just one more reason for more screen hours.

“Play” is often screen-based: interactive video games with friends, gaming apps, messaging, and videos is done for entertainment. Children and families are tied to devices to manage the home and activity schedules and to communicate with coworkers, friends, family, teachers, and coaches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that children ages eight to 10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen, kids ages 11 to 14 spend an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen, and youth ages 15 to 18 spend an average of seven-and-a-half hours per day in front of a screen.

According to the one study, children aged 8-18 spend and average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day. That is a startling number!

But, when you think about requirements for distance learning, video entertainment, communicating with friends and family, app usage, that number begins to make sense. All of the screen time throughout the day and evening hours adds up quickly.

According to the World Health Organization, over 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents are not sufficiently physically active. Our kids are living sedentary lives and the adults in their lives are as well.

Children are spending more time in sedentary activity by using screens and less time in creative, active play that their bodies NEED to thrive and develop.

We also know that children under a certain age should not have access to screens. We know that kids need more active play and creative play that involves the senses. We know that our children need these things to regulate emotions, behaviors, and to give their nervous systems what they need to learn and develop.

We’ve talked a lot on this space about wellness and well-being. We’ve discussed the balance of occupations. But, have you ever looked deeply into the research on screens?

Children as young as 2 years old have their own tablets. The average age of a child getting a smartphone is now 10.3 years old. This is astounding and gravely against recommended ages of screen time according to the American Academy of Pediatric Guidelines.

Symptoms of too much screen time in kids.

Too much screen time symptoms

The effects of screen time on children is showing up in the research. We are seeing astonishing symptoms of screen time in so many ways. These are just SOME of the symptoms and signs of screen overload:

  • Impact on physical health
  • Behavior Issues
  • Poor posture
  • Poor core strength
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Increased frustration
  • Impulsivity
  • Moodiness
  • Poor ability to handle stress
  • Poor endurance
  • Mental health issues
  • Impact on emotional health
  • Decreased attention
  • Decreased cognitive skills
  • Overactive brain
  • Poor ability to transition
  • Addiction “state of being”
  • Less self-control

Do these screen time symptoms sound familiar? Some of them probably do! But, it’s not just something that is in your mind when it comes to screens and foggy thoughts.

warning signs of too much screen time adults

The warning signs for too much time on screens isn’t just for kids. We see the impact of screentime in adults too.

Excessive screen time in adults can have various negative effects on physical and mental well-being. For adults, we might need to spend long hours on a computer while at work. Then to spend more hours at home as entertainment when watching shows on a small screen or while scrolling social media. All of this time adds up!

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Eye Strain: Complaints of dry, irritated, or tired eyes.
  • Headaches: Frequent headaches, particularly tension headaches, may be linked to prolonged screen use.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep may be associated with excessive screen time, especially before bedtime.
  • Sedentary Behavior: Excessive sitting or lack of physical activity associated with prolonged screen use.
  • Posture Problems: Neck and back pain due to poor ergonomics or prolonged periods of screen use.
  • Increased Stress: Excessive screen time, especially on social media or news sites, can contribute to heightened stress levels.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Some individuals may experience increased symptoms of anxiety or depression related to their online activities.
  • Reduced Productivity: Difficulty focusing or completing tasks due to distractions from screens.
  • Memory Issues: Challenges with memory and cognitive functioning associated with prolonged screen use.
  • Isolation: Spending excessive time on screens may lead to reduced face-to-face social interactions, potentially contributing to feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  • Blurred Vision: Vision-related issues such as blurred vision or difficulty focusing.
  • Digital Fatigue: Feeling mentally exhausted or drained after extended screen use.
  • Work or Personal Neglect: Neglecting work responsibilities, personal relationships, or household duties due to excessive screen time.
  • Strained Relationships: Increased conflicts or strained relationships with friends, family, or colleagues due to excessive screen use.
  • Lack of Exercise: Reduced engagement in physical activities due to prolonged screen-related activities.

Screentime in adults

It’s important to note that these signs may vary among individuals, and some people may be more resilient to the effects of screen time. However, being aware of these warning signs can help individuals and healthcare professionals address potential issues related to excessive screen use and promote a healthier balance in daily activities.

Encouraging breaks, adopting proper ergonomics, and establishing screen time limits can contribute to a more balanced and sustainable approach to technology use.

These are the things we see when it comes to screen time. But what else is happening when screens take over the balance of play, physical activity, creative play, and imagination?

  • Less family interaction
  • More frustration
  • More stress
  • Poor ability to transition between tasks (stopping screen play and moving to a different task)
  • Less creative play
  • Less imagination play
  • Less opportunities for communication and interaction
  • Wanting more and more screen time
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor motivation
  • More distracted
  • Posture issues
  • Difficulty with pinch and grip strength and dexterity
  • Eye tracking and shift difficulties

The list could go on and on! It’s the iceberg theory of behaviors, only it’s applied to screen time and over use.

Screen time symptoms

There is research behind these common concerns. More on that in an upcoming blog post.

All of this information, including in-depth research review behind these symptoms of screen time, as well as HOW to make a difference when it comes to unbalanced screen time are available in the OT-created course, Digital Devastation Solutions.

Strategies to help kids balance screen time in the Digital Devastation Solutions course

How to balance screen time

We can do something. We can make a difference in our children and our future.

This doesn’t mean that we need to completely take screens away from our kids! It doesn’t mean that they can’t watch videos or play games with friends online. But, we can offer balance, and the activities their nervous systems need to empower sensory and regulation so learning, emotions, behaviors, and mental well-being flourishes. Much of this can be impacted by another aspect, the individuals co-regulation abilities.

What kids REALLY need, is balance. They need play to help develop their brains. They need play to create new neural connections in the brain. They need creative activities to build self-confidence, emotional well-being, and strategies to cope.

All of this information on the research being done on the impact of screens on development, is covered and explained in easy-to-understand language in the therapist-created course and 12-step program, Digital Devastation Solutions.

The practical strategies designed to balance screens with meaningful play are covered in Digital Devastation Solutions.

Digital Devastation on Development Solutions- a course on balancing screen time for kids.

Wondering about how much screen time is too much, and what to do when the effects of screen time seem to impact daily life?

How much screen time is too much?

Determining how much screen time is “too much” depends on various factors, including age, developmental stage, and the content being consumed. It’s important to remember that moderation is key. The fact is that current education, social interactions, entertainment, and daily life tasks all revolve around screen use. Because daily life requires use of screens, we can’t be made to feel guilty about using phones, tablets, laptops, and other types of screens. This is a change in daily life experiences and a piece of the puzzle that must be considered.

Let’s take a look at what current research says about moving from the moderation level to the “too much screen time” level.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides guidelines regarding screen time for children and adolescents:

  1. For Children Under 18 Months: The AAP recommends avoiding the use of screen media other than video chatting.
  2. For Children 18 to 24 Months: If introduced, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they are seeing.
  3. For Children Ages 2 to 5 Years: Limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming, and co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing.
  4. For Children Ages 6 Years and Older: Place consistent limits on screen time, ensuring it does not interfere with adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.

While we can’t change current screen usage as times change; students work from personal tablets all day at school; shopping over apps is more and more common; checking in to the doctor’s appointment is done via a tablet at the doctor’s office door.

What we can do is be sure that activities such as physical play, face-to-face interaction, and sufficient sleep are integrated within the day over screen time.

Excessive screen time has been associated with various negative outcomes, including poor sleep, obesity, and delayed language development in young children. However, it’s essential to recognize that not all screen time is equal. Educational content and interactive apps can have benefits when used appropriately and in moderation.

As an occupational therapy practitioner, you can work with families to create a balanced approach to screen time that takes into account individual needs and developmental considerations. Encouraging parents to engage in activities that promote social interaction, physical activity, and creative play can help mitigate the potential negative effects of excessive screen time.

For more information, you can refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on media use for children and adolescents.

How to manage Screen time

There is a way to combat the requirements of online learning, distance schooling, social distancing, and the newest concerns of today. We can balance digital entertainment with the tools that kids need to flourish in emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

One way to manage screen time is to focus on telling time and time management in kids.

We can manage screen time in ways that make a true difference.

Digital Devastation Solutions is a tool created by an occupational therapist that can make a true impact on our kids. This course provides the means to balance screens while providing the framework to help kids thrive and master emotions, physical health, mental well-being. It is a formula for helping kids establish skills they need for executive functioning, learning, motor milestones, and so much more.

Digital Devastation Solutions is a way for families to balance excessive screen time use and improve their child’s development. The course covers everything you need to know about the astonishing research that’s been done on screen use in kids and gives a step-by-step plan.

The course offers actionable strategies to impact our kid’s nervous systems so they get the activity they need, and it explains this in a way that is easy to understand.

This course is a cost-effective way to get the research and understand it in a parent-friendly way. What’s more, you’ll be able to explain to others what the research tells us, so you can understand the impact screens are having on so many areas of development in children.

You’ll gain a knowledge of exactly what happens to the brain on screens. You’ll be able to use this information so you can give kids what they really need to grow and develop.

Digital Devastation Solutions is an informative course AND 12 Step Plan for raising a happy, healthy child in the digital age. Kids and families can use that 12 step solution to balance screen time in this new COVID era.

Now is the time to battle the beast of screen time overload. There are easy action steps that you can do to balance out the excessive screen time kids are experiencing due to mandatory online schooling. You can use this information and step-by-step plan to improve your child’s readiness for school in the fall.

Digital Devastation Solutions can be purchased here for just $29.

This is an investment in your family and your child’s development and overall health and well being.

Resource for therapists Concerned about screen use in kids

Therapy practitioners will want to know that I fell in love with this program and am using it’s 12 step plan in my own family. This course, created by a pediatric occupational therapist is not only a powerful tool for you own family…it’s the potential to make an impact on kids in your community and practice.

The nice thing is that therapy practitioners can access a workshop and program that can be duplicated in your practice. You can use the workshop as a class for parents and share this powerful research and step-by-step program with those in your community.

>>Free Ways to Add Sensory Motor Activities to the Classroom

>>Scree Research Printable

>>Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

>>Indoor Recess Sensory Diet Activities

>>Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities and Outdoor Challenges

>>School Sensory Checklist

>>How Play Builds Child Development Printable

Too much screen time can have devastating impact on kids and adults. We see this every day. Hopefully, the information in this blog post can help with understanding about the effects of too much screen time in kids and in adults.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.