When the COVID-19 pandemic began, people all around the world became far more attached to their digital devices than they had ever previously been. A number of studies have shown that almost 94% of all Americans increased their screen time significantly once the lockdown from the pandemic started.

Obviously, there’s a good reason for that increased attachment, because as the world was shutting down, people weren’t able to physically attend work, school or college, and other activities. The Internet provided an outlet for life to continue in a somewhat normal fashion, despite the inability to travel from home and the obligation of observing lockdowns.

There’s no question that the Internet has provided some enormous beneficial power to users, so that all important activities can be conducted literally from anywhere on the planet. Users can also feel much closer to family members, even if they don’t live on the same continent. People are able to shop at any time of day, whether stores are open or not.

Digital Media Use and Mental HealthThis Peer Tech art was created by a member of Painted Brain's artistic community




All these are very positive benefits, but there have also been some negative developments associated with increased screen time. Research has shown that our dependence on screen time is beginning to affect our mental health negatively. It’s therefore very important for parents, especially, to understand the impact screen time is having on their children if you want to protect them from negative mental health impacts.

How digital devices negatively impact mental wellness

Before considering the negative impacts that digital devices have on mental wellness, it must be conceded that there are a good number of positive mental impacts as well. Some of these positive feelings include expanding the accessible community, decreased depression by distraction, less social stress for adults, lowering stress by making work easier, and an increased sense of self-efficacy. However, when screen time becomes excessive, it has been clearly shown to have a strong negative impact on mental health. Here are some of the ways that excessive use of digital devices can negatively affect mental wellness.

Sleep interruption

Excessive screen time has been shown to intrude on normal sleeping hours, delivering a negative impact on anyone glued to their screen. Excessive time staring at the blue light of a screen before bedtime has a definite interference with circadian rhythms, decreasing the duration and the quality of sleep. Young people are especially susceptible to this kind of sleep deprivation, and it can have a major impact on their mental health, contributing to feelings of depression and anxiety.

Depression from device over-usage

A study which was conducted in 2017 showed that using digital devices excessively caused an increase in depression in users. Both teens and adults who spent too much time gazing at their cell phone screens were far more likely to experience moderate to severe depression than users who kept their screen time down to a manageable level. Experts, therefore, believe that one of the factors which contribute to this depression is disconnectedness.

When a person spends a great deal of time alone with their cell phone screen, it can contribute to a feeling of disconnectedness from the real world, and instead trigger feelings of isolation. This lack of genuine human connection contributes to the feeling of depression, and when this is sensed by a user, their typical response would be to flee to the safe haven of their cellphone for more screen time.

Feelings of low self-esteem

It often happens that people who spend an excessive amount of time on their digital devices have feelings of low self-esteem because they frequently compare themselves to others in their online social circle. And even worse, users don’t just compare themselves to people they’re in communication with, but they often compare themselves to social media influencers and celebrities on their platform. This can be detrimental to someone’s mental well-being because they will generally fall far short of the high regard that celebrities and influencers are held in.

Strengthening your mental health

There are a number of things you can do to combat these negative impacts that excessive screen time can have on yourself and your children. If mental health has deteriorated to a point where medication might be needed, you can consult your doctor, and obtain needed prescriptions.

Next, the obvious antidote is simply to impose some kind of restriction on how much time can be spent on cell phones. Next, try to involve yourself and your children in other, healthier activities (for instance, going to the gym) that will replace some of those cellphone hours. If you’re interested in enhancing your physical health which will, later on, strengthen your mental health, investing time in the gym may be the perfect solution. Some people use supplements such as the ones from at this site to effectively and rapidly see results.

It might be a hard sell in the beginning, but if you show your children that you’re imposing the same restrictions on yourself, they may be more inclined to buy into it. For a couple of hours each day, put away the cellphones and engage in real human interactions.

[Related: Make Social Media Work For (Rather Than Against) Your Mental Health]

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