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Is The Pandemic Driving Screen Addiction?

According to a recent survey, over half of American adults report that the amount of time they spend in front of screens has increased since the advent of the pandemic. Aside from screen time related to work or school, they now spend a whopping average of more than six hours a day in front of devices like televisions, laptops, and iPhones. 

This isn’t altogether surprising given how many activities that were formerly held in-person have transitioned online due to COVID-19, with many other activities having been suspended entirely and people left to find online substitutes. 

And though the importance of screens as a safe way to connect with friends and family during this unprecedented international event shouldn’t be understated, it’s also clear that this increased screen time has come with a plethora of negative impacts.

Almost 40 percent of Americans admit that their excessive screen time has led to a decrease in their physical activity, 21 percent believe it has harmed their mental health, and 66 percent admit that they are spending too much time with their screens. 

For millenials and members of Gen Z, matters are even worse, with one in four adults aged 18-29 agreeing that increased screen time has made them feel lonelier than ever before. Nearly that many (23 percent) also agree that the additional screen time has made them feel bad about their body or hurt their self-esteem.


The situation was already dire before the pandemic, but now nearly one in three American adults describes themselves as “addicted” to their screens. And though most of them probably aren’t referring to a full-blown behavioral addiction to their devices, more serious technological dependencies appear to be on the rise as well. 


Just as many people use alcohol casually or experiment with drugs but only those with underlying vulnerabilities in their mental health or life circumstances go on to develop addiction, the majority of people are able to withstand even a significant increase in screen time driven by circumstances without it spiraling into something more serious. 

However, just as other forms of addiction have increased given the stress of the pandemic and the ensuing disruptions to people’s lifestyles and routines, the pandemic may have exacerbated many people’s milder dependence on technology into something more worrisome. 

Mental health practitioners and support organizations report receiving more requests for help from those struggling with screen addictions, as well as from some parents worried about their children’s dependency. 

Many parents have also found it harder to impose limits on their children’s screen time now that they can only socialize and complete their schoolwork online. They and experts alike worry about the potential impacts that this abrupt increase in screen time might have on their development, especially when it comes to absorbing activities like video games.

A recent declaration by the Chinese state media even went so far as to describe video games as “spiritual opium,” and “electronic drugs” that pose a serious threat to the well-being of the next generation. 

A look at the most severe cases of screen addiction might prove such suspicions and fears warranted. One parent describes seeing a previously even-keeled child become tired, moody, and irritable in only a matter of days after he developed an obsession with online videos. 

Other children have lost interest in school and socializing as they became lost in the imaginary worlds of their video games, raging at their families when they attempted to intervene. 

The stakes become even higher when children are able to spend real-world money on virtual “loot packs” that give them an in-game advantage. Not one but three respondents to a recent survey reported having to remortgage their house because of money lost to these ludicrous loot packs. 

Addiction expert Dr. Anna Lembke compares technology to a modern-day hypodermic needle,” and believes that it is harming even those of us who do not end up at these obviously pathological extremes. 

According to her, the easy spikes in the pleasure chemical dopamine that scrolling through social media and similar activities dependably deliver is diminishing our capacity to “delay gratification, solve problems and deal with frustration and pain in its many different forms.” Many of us have learned to escape from our discomfort by queuing up a new Netflix show much as we might by mixing ourselves a drink. 

She recommends resetting your relationship with technology by “fasting” from your devices for 24 hours, and then using other strategies, like keeping your devices out of your bedroom or putting your phone on airplane mode, to help you establish a healthier and more moderate pattern of use.

Apps like Freedom can also help you limit your technology use even if you need your electronic devices for school or work by allowing you to block specific distracting sites or even the internet as a whole for predetermined periods of time.

Too much staring at screens can also cause headaches and eye strain, another reason it could be a good idea for everyone to make an effort to cut back. 

The long hours of stillness that come with excessive screen time could also come with real physical consequences. Conditions like “text neck,”“selfie elbow,” and other overuse injuries associated with excessive technology time have been on the rise since the pandemic started, and the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle more generally have been well-documented.

Experts recommend setting a timer to periodically remind yourself to take brief movement breaks during long screen-time work sessions, and a more substantial workout sometime during the day could be a great way to incorporate some entirely screen-free time into your schedule.

Other ideas of screen-free but still pandemic-safe activities to try out if you’ve been spending a little too much time on the world wide web lately include diving into a good book, cooking yourself a healthy meal, gathering for a board game with your pod, or experimenting with gardening or crafting.

But there’s no reason you should be ashamed if you have been struggling with a more serious screen addiction, and there’s also no reason that you should hesitate to reach out to Reco Intensive. Our comprehensive treatment programs can address behavioral addictions as well as substance abuse disorders, and our professional staff and experienced alumni can help you find your way towards a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. To learn more, call Reco Intensive at (561) 464-6533 today. Let’s get back to a brighter future.













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