Why overloading on screen time could damage the brain

As a broker, you’re probably online often, jumping between your laptop, and/or desktop PC, tablet and smartphone. At home, you might watch TV, play video games and spend some more time on the phone or iPad before or in bed. Here’s how to limit the damaging effects of screen time on your brain.    


What’s the difference between half a line of cocaine and an hour playing a video game?


Nothing, as far as your brain is concerned. This is according to South African technology expert Brad Huddleston, whose new book, “Digital Cocaine”, examines the downsides of technology – specifically regarding its effects on the human brain.


Huddleston cites the example of 15-year-old South Korean Kim Min-Woo, who started having problems remembering simple things like the six digit access to his house. Kim was diagnosed with early onset dementia, shockingly due to intense exposure to digital technology. Since he was five, Kim has been almost constantly in front of a TV or computer screen. “Kim’s brain’s ability to transfer information to long-term memory has been impaired because of his heavy exposure to digital gadgets,” explained psychiatrist Kim Dae-jin at St. Mary’s Hospital in Seoul.


In a 2012 Shanghai study, neuroimaging was used to examine the effects of internet and gaming addiction on the brain. Research found that internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in the brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making and cognitive control.


Other studies also have similar findings: that extended screen time appears to negatively impact brain structure and function. According to a Psychology Today article that rounds up the studies, most damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe. This is the part of the brain that undergoes massive changes from puberty until adulthood, and largely determines “success” in life,  everything from a sense of well-being to academic or career performance, to relationship skills.


So while there’s no doubt that digital gadgets are brilliant for making our lives simpler, connecting with others and with the world, there are clearly dangers if they’re not used in moderation. With this in mind, here are five ways to give your brain a break from extended screen time:


  1. Take screen breaks throughout the day. Adult sleep happens in 90 minute cycles, so apply this to your screen time as well. For every 90 minutes in front of your computer or smartphone, take a 10 minute break doing something like meditating, walking, having a conversation or making a cup of tea.
  2. Limit flicking between screens. Studies have found that using multiple screens at the same time has an even worse effect on your brain – so avoid using your smart phone in front of the TV, or using your computer and tablet together.
  3. Take screens out the bedroom. Help your mind to get into a calmer state by not checking emails or Twitter on your phone before you go to bed. Also resist the temptation to have a TV in your bedroom, or to work on your computer in bed just before you turn the lights off.
  4. Schedule non screen time. Turn the TV off during mealtimes, and turn it off when nobody’s really watching it. If you have children, limit the amount of time you allow them to watch TV or use the iPad.
  5. Get enough sleep. Since technology largely affects the nervous system, getting an adequate night’s sleep is a great way of counteracting any negative effects.


Huddleston says that “we are enveloped in a ‘digital tsunami’ which is leaving many people tired, depressed and anxious.” Following the five simple steps above can help you keep perspective that technology is a useful addition to your life, rather than the central focus.


Fedhealth believes in living a happy holistic life, and we take the health of our members seriously. Our comprehensive option range offers quality health cover well suited to every lifestyle and pocket.