Health and Wellness: Staring at a screen isn't good for you

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department
Special to Dallas County News and Perry Chief

Ever since Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed the evidence-based 5-2-1-0 initiative, the Iowa Department of Public Health has recommended no more than two hours of recreational screen time daily. Screen time includes watching TV, using a computer, phone, or other electronic device for gaming, watching movies and other shows, communicating and browsing social media. Tasks done for school or employment are not included in the two-hour limit. 

Quite a body of evidence shows we can benefit from the cognitive stimulation of games on computers and phones. Remember that there is a world of difference between solving a tricky gaming puzzle and watching reruns day and night. Putting the two-hour cap on gaming provides benefit without overdoing it. 

How do you set screen time limits for yourself and your children? Here’s a first step to reducing screen time. Turn. It. Off. If silence bothers you, play music instead. Research in 2020 by Mehegan and Rainville shows persons who listened to music had slightly higher scores for mental well-being and slightly reduced levels of anxiety and depression. doi.org/10.26419/res.00387.001 

Limiting screen time will likely result in push back from some children and adults. Use the two-hour limit to help them prioritize and plan how they use this time.