Don't Ignore These Signs That You May Be Getting Too Much Screen Time

It will probably come as no surprise that our screen time is growing year by year. Worldwide, the average screen time per day has reached nearly seven hours, encompassing activities from scrolling social media and watching videos to creating new content (per Exploding Topics). For Americans, that average has actually surpassed the seven-hour mark, and if you're a member of Gen Z, the average may be closer to a whopping nine hours.


Of course, this can be a difficult habit to break. For one thing, many of us require electronic devices to complete necessary job tasks and may spend most of our workday staring at a computer screen. Then there's the issue of screen addiction, which drives us to compulsively interact with devices thanks to the instant gratification and hit of dopamine they provide (via UPMC Health Beat).

But if you let your rampant screen usage go unchecked, you could be inflicting some uncomfortable and sometimes long-term health issues on yourself. For instance, here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of excessive screen time.

Dry eyes

We probably all tried staring contests as kids, and can remember that dry, burning sensation as we forced ourselves not to blink. Now, imagine getting into a staring contest with your phone. Who do you think is going to win?


When you're indulging in too much screen time, dry, itchy eyes are a surefire sign. Often, the information we're taking in through our phone, tablet, or computer is so enthralling that we don't blink as regularly as we should, causing that familiar burning feeling. In fact, University of Iowa Health Care reports that we blink 66% less when using a computer. And prolonged exposure to screens may even make our tears evaporate faster, leaving our eyes uncomfortably parched (via Medical Optometry America).


Headaches are another well-documented side effect of excess screen time and can be a direct result of all that eye strain you're experiencing (via Houston Methodist). And as the team at Excedrin notes, eye strain can even trigger migraines for some people. If you've ever had a migraine before, you know that this could ruin your entire day, if not your entire week.


By and large, screen headaches share the same symptoms as any other throbbing in your head, such as pulsating pain, light and sound sensitivity, or nausea. But there are also a few more distinctive signs, which include blurry vision, dry or tired eyes, tense muscles around your neck and shoulders, and a headache that's centered primarily behind your eyeballs (per Healthline). If these symptoms sound familiar, you may be dealing specifically with screen headaches.

Sleep issues

Many of us have been shocked to look up from our endless scrolling and find how late it's gotten, that early bedtime we were planning having long since blown past. But did you know that the light from your screen can make your sleeping habits even worse? Unfortunately, blue light can have a significant negative impact on the quality of your slumber.


Exposure to blue light interferes with melatonin production, which usually helps keep your sleep cycle running smoothly. Without melatonin's cue to start winding down, your body may not recognize that it's time to go into rest mode. In fact, too much blue light may knock your sleep cycle up to three hours off its usual rhythm (via Harvard Health).

Net result? You're lying awake, feeling wired, while the precious hours before your morning alarm slip through your fingers. And tomorrow, you'll probably feel that lack of sleep. So if you're trying to boost your melatonin for better sleep, one useful step would be limiting your screen time in the hour or two before you head to bed.

Sore neck, shoulders, or back

It may come as no surprise that the glowing light of your favorite devices can wear you out and leave your eyes exhausted. But screen time also has a less obvious impact on other parts of your body, including those stiff muscle aches you've been chalking up to "sleeping wrong."


Rally Health points out that poor posture — such as consistent slouching or hunching over electronic devices — can lead to shoulder and neck pain. There's even a name for this phenomenon, which is commonly called tech neck. As chiropractic doctor Stacie J. Stephenson explains to Everyday Health, tech neck is "the fallout from spending too much time looking down at phones or tablets, or holding your head too far forward to look at a computer screen." And while this may seem like a minor problem, consistently bad posture can be bad for your spine in the long run.

As a side note, tech neck is also one of the ways that devices like your phone can contribute to skin aging. Constantly tilting your head up and down to check device screens can evidently lead to wrinkles and creases along your neck, plus saggy jowls on your jawline. So giving into the temptation for endless scrolling has the potential to leave you stiff, sore, and even dealing with premature aging.


Weight gain

While playing video games or browsing TikTok won't directly add weight onto your frame, evidence is mounting to suggest that screen time can be tied to health problems like obesity. Dr. Kara Hartl, a self-proclaimed blue light expert, points to screen time as a major contributor to weight gain and diabetes. As she explains, not only does excessive screen time usually equate to a less active lifestyle, but those sleep disruptions we discussed earlier can feed into your appetite and cravings for unhealthy comfort foods.


Weight gain can then contribute to a number of serious health problems, including up to 12 types of cancer (via Pancreatic Cancer Action). And this tendency toward obesity has shown to be especially profound among children, which could set them up for a lifetime of struggles with their weight and health. So even from a young age, it's important to look out for signs of excessive screen time, adopt healthier habits, and try to balance our screen time with other activities.