Many Americans Worry About Digital Overload
The amount of time we spend in front of screens looking at digital images is astonishing. A 2016 Nielsen Company audience report indicated that adults in the U.S. spend over 10½ hours per day looking at screens, including tablets, smartphones, personal computers, multimedia devices, video games, radios, DVDs, DVRs and TVs. This is a one hour/day increase over 2015 and may reflect increased use of smartphones and tablets. A 2015 survey of U.S. children by Common Sense Media estimated that 8 to 12-year-olds watch screens for an average of 4 hours and 36 minutes per day. A survey of younger children (0-8 years old) in 2017 indicated that they spend 2 hours and 19 minutes watching screens.
This massive consumption of digital media brings with it a host of well-documented health issues including obesity, sleep problems and eye strain. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that extended time spent in front of a screen can also put teens and children at risk of cyber bullying and poor academic performance. For toddlers, screen time has been linked to language delay and smaller vocabularies. Watching TV and playing video games are also associated with a significant increase in blood pressure. And then there are the social and mental health issues surrounding excessive use of digital media such as depression, isolation, and anxiety; digital addiction is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon affecting all parts of the population.
As digital consumption continues to increase, are we worried about what it might be doing to us both mentally and physically? In 2017, Two Sides commissioned a survey in the U.S., which asked consumers about their attitudes to digital and print media. What we found was a clear concern about the effects of spending too much time on digital media and a desire to “switch off” and enjoy print more often.
When asked if they were concerned that the overuse of e-devices could be damaging to their health, 53% of respondents agreed. The same amount felt that they spent too much time on electronic devices and 36% felt they were suffering from digital overload. This indicated that the majority of people were well aware that they spent a lot of time in front of a screen and that it was not good for their health.
What was really surprising though was that those numbers increased dramatically when we looked at the responses of the younger age groups. In the 18-24-year-old age group, 65% felt they spent too much time on devices and this number rose to 81% in the 25 to 34-year-old age group. When asked if they were concerned about overuse of e-devices damaging their health, 62% of the 18 to 24-year-olds and 75% of the 25 to 34-year-olds agreed that they were.
And as for whether it was important to “switch off” and enjoy printed books and magazines, 80% of the 18 to 24-year-olds and 67% of all consumers agreed that it was.
To access the full survey report and U.S. findings, go to: http://twosidesna.org/Survey2017
Phil has over 28 years of international experience related to sustainability and the forest products industry. He currently leads Two Sides North America, a non-profit that promotes the unique sustainable features of print and paper, as well as their responsible production and use. Two Sides operates globally in five continents with members that span the entire graphic communication value chain. Phil has written extensively on sustainability and environmental topics related to the forest products sector. He received his Bachelor and Master's of Science degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is a private forest owner and sustainably manages over 200 acres of forestland for both recreational and economic benefits.