Small Screen-Habit Changes Make a Big Difference

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about new research that indicates just cutting one hour a day of screen time might yield better long-term results that trying to go completely cold turkey.

On the heels of that study comes another that delivers a parallel message about the benefits of making a different kind of short-term change regarding screen-use habits.

Researchers from the University of Bath in England conducted research on a group of 154 people, ages 18 to 72, who used social media daily. On average, most of the participants spent about 8 hours a week on social media, or a little more than an hour daily. Researchers split the participants into two groups: One would continue to use social media normally and a second group that committed to trying to abstain completely for a week.

The task for the second group wasn’t an easy one. And participants still logged an average of 21 minutes of social media time over the week. Still, that drop of more than an hour to about three minutes a day led to some significant changes in just a week, scientists noted. Writing for Study Finds, author Chris Melore summarizes the results:

“In comparison to mental health scores gathered at the start of the study, results show that avoiding social media for a full week led to dramatic improvements in each participant’s well-being, regardless of age. The experiment group also displayed noticeable drops in anxiety and depression. The team is now hoping to expand this project to see how detoxing from social media for a longer period of time impacts long-term mental health scores.”

Dr. Jeff Lambert, one of the researchers on the study, emphasized again that even small changes in our screen-time habits can have significant effects. “Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night. … Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.”

Social media and the screens that deliver that content aren’t going anywhere. It will continue to be a challenge faced by families—parents and teens alike—in the years to come. But studies like this one are important, because they show us that even relatively modest adjustments to our usage can yield big benefits as we reshape our habitual interactions with technology.

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.