Screen Time

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For most of us, the first eight hours of time spent staring at a screen each day are instantly forgiven because it is our job.  In order to buy food and pay for our house, we have to go to a job, and most of them require a computer these days.  We get in the car, and while we’re not staring at it, there’s a screen in there, too.  I’m not complaining—without that screen I would get lost all the time—but it’s still a screen.  We get home, kick off our shoes, and sit down to relax in front of a television set, or video games, or YouTube, or social media.  Screens.  And in between, there’s this cool game on my phone where you’re trying to match the colored balls in sets of three or more…

There has always been chatter about limiting the screen time our children enjoy each day to encourage the other things they should be doing for their long-term well-being, such as going outside where the Vitamin D lives, engaging in interactive, social play, using their imagination, and maybe drawing, painting or playing with toys.  Children who do nothing but play video games are very skilled at video games and little else, but unless they have some guarantee from a rich uncle that they will be hired as a game tester as soon as they are released from the school they’ve been ignoring, that’s not sustainable.  We know this, we tell them this, they fight with us, we win because we have the right to take their computer away and in the end all is well.  They are healthier and they eventually not only forgive us, they call us the first time they have to take their child’s computer away.  It’s the circle of life.

Who takes ours?  Who steps in and says, “You’ve been staring at a screen for 12 hours straight, and I don’t care that the content has changed, it’s still not good for your eyes, your brain, or really any part of you, so shut it off and go outside.”  I’ve said it, just not to myself.  Anyone else in the same boat?

Perhaps we need to adjust our expectations to accommodate the constant screen requirement of the modern world, but I think it’s far healthier to be your own parent and turn it off when you can.  Even at work—if there’s something you can delegate or a couple of tasks you can trade with a coworker to vary your day, get up and move around.  Say hi to someone you don’t get to talk to often.  Step outside and see what all that trendy Vitamin D is all about.  Take out the trash if you need a reason, but step away from the screen as often as you can.

One way to handle that at work is to clearly define what is and what is not your job, and then don’t do things you don’t have to.  It seems simple, but it’s not, because most of us want to help, and it’s often easier to handle something ourselves than to wait for the cavalry.  Sometimes we make mistakes, and the things that aren’t our job often take us longer than they would take the person who should be doing it, since that’s what they do all the time and they are likely faster at it than we are.  It really does make more sense to not help on some of these things and delegate where we can.

If you are a creative professional managing projects and teams, you don’t need to manage your tech, too.  That’s not your job.  You might make a mistake just because it’s complicated, and while you may not want to call for help, it’s easy and much, much more effective in the long run.  Set up a maintenance contract for your data storage and delegate.  Let someone else worry about the screen that tells your screen what to do.  That’s one less screen for you.

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