Psychologists warn of the ‘damaging’ over-reliance on screens

Psychologists have warned of the ‘damaging’ over-reliance on screens that millions are addicted to, according to a study.

A study into the screen use of 2,000 adults was analysed by Dr Kiki Leutner from University College London who made some worrying findings, with screen time affecting behaviour within relationships, concentration levels, and losing touch with the real world.

On a typical weekday, an average Brit spends six hours looking at screens including smartphones, tablets, work computers and televisions, according to the research by Encore Tickets, the UK’s leading independent ticket provider.

And nearly a quarter of the population spends upwards of 10 hours a day with their face just a few inches from a screen, living most their waking day in the digital world rather than through live experiences such as music concerts and theatre.

Dr Leutner, who is working with Encore Tickets to highlight the negative impact of excessive screen time, whilst reinforcing the benefits of live performances, said: “The research shows that nine out of 10 of us say screens are a necessary part of everyday life and more than a third of people say they couldn’t live without screens.

“This shows our increasing reliance on our digital devices, but also supports the idea that people develop attachments towards devices such as their phone, which can be damaging.”

The research from Encore Tickets found that adults spend more than two hours a day at least looking just at their smartphone.

And one in 20 admit to looking at their phone for an incredible six hours a day or longer.

Dr Leutner continued: “Research has found that people feel the need to be near their phone and can experience distress on separation - much like the attachments we develop with other humans.

“Attributing this kind of attachment to an object can be damaging in the long term - people who have constant contact and validation from mobile devices may deepen their dependence on others, affecting both their behaviour and relationships.”

The advent of ‘multi-screening’ – i.e. watching television while operating a smartphone, tablet or laptop has also exploded in recent years.

Six in 10 respondents say they’re likely to use a second screen while watching a film or television programme at home on the TV.

Three quarters say they do it to browse the internet, 56 per cent scroll through social media and a fifth are keeping up to date with work emails.

But seven in 10 Brits say they can be distracted and pay less attention to what they’re watching when using multiple screens.

Dr. Leutner said: “Our reliance on screens and sometimes using more than one at a time is also affecting our concentration.

“By using multiple devices we may like to think we are multitasking, but actually we could be concentrating less.

“Doing things that distance us from screens can have a positive effect. For example, going to the theatre is an experience that makes you totally present.

“Outside stimuli are removed, mobile phones have to be switched off, and for a couple of hours you are away from the real world and the impact of screens.

“Positive effects of theatre and live performance are present both for those engaging in theatre, and those consuming it. Brain activity appears to be enhanced when a performance is watched in theatre versus on a screen.”
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