3 Ways Screen Time Impacts Our Ability to Communicate

Business man standing with finger out, poised to choose how he is going to communicate: social media, text, email, etc.


As technology has advanced, there's been a rise in screen time. Defined as any activity in front of a screen, these days, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we spend at least half the day binge-watching our favorite TV shows, scrolling through social media posts, playing video games, and getting sucked into junk flow. This increase in screen time may have become the norm, but it may also be more harmful than beneficial. 

We have all come to rely on digital technology, whether it's for school, work, entertainment, or socializing. And using devices has made it easier to perform specific tasks. For example, now we can purchase anything we want, complete bank transactions, research any topic, communicate instantly, and more with just a swipe of our device. 

The problem is the amount of time we spend behind the screen has become excessive, causing adverse effects on our cognitive functions, communication, and overall health and wellbeing. That's not all. Children are experiencing behavioral issues, developmental delays, poor social skills, among other things.

While overexposure to screen time appears to create many problems for both children and adults, it has made the most significant impact on our communication skills. With technology, we may communicate efficiently with anyone at a faster rate, but at what cost? We will explore three ways too much screen time affects our ability to communicate.

Speech and language skills

There's a reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen exposure for children under 18 months, no more than 1 hour of high-quality programming per day for children between ages 2 and 5 years, and a limited quantity of screen time for children over 6. How children age five and under learn, process, and use language stay with them for the rest of their lives. Therefore, appropriate language development is critical in those early years.

Studies show that children who consume too much passive screen time experience speech and language delays. The more time children spend passively watching television, the less time for activities that will help them learn how to:

  • Understand and use language to communicate their feelings, needs, and ideas;
  • Articulate sounds, words, and sentences correctly; and
  • Develop their vocabulary. 

But do we need studies to tell us that children should be exposed to daily casual speech and other face-to-face interactions with family and friends to avoid language disorders? 

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association findings relating to preschoolers' screen time, the answer is yes. What's more, follow the path of the over-exposed toddler, and you will inevitably find an over-exposed parent. 

Social skills

In this digital age, we use social media to build community and promote communication and creativity. But now that we're socializing more online than offline, we're losing opportunities to form meaningful, lasting relationships. For instance, tweens and teens use screens as a diversion rather than challenge themselves to engage in awkward, uncomfortable conversations. So instead of approaching a crush or making a new friend, they hide behind their screens.

More screen time and less face-to-face time can also lead to shorter attention spans and poor social skills. Because communication occurs faster online, we no longer take the time to identify and understand nonverbal and social cues, which are crucial elements to having successful social interactions and stronger peer relationships. We also may misinterpret something said online, creating unnecessary stress and rifts. 

Other downsides to spending more time online are having less exciting and engaging conversations and experiencing social withdrawal and cyberbullying. 

Writing skills

We rely on digital technology for practically everything, including sharing our thoughts and emotions. From texts and emails to social media status updates, we write more online these days than in real life. 

Instead of having in-person conversations, some families send texts or emails. Friends prefer sharing significant moments in their lives through social media than meeting up or giving each other a call. We consistently use written communication online to express ourselves and stay connected.  

However, writing online means more screen time, resulting in health problems and inadequate writing skills. Some health issues that occur from spending too much time online include:

  • Strained eyes, neck, and back
  • Poor posture
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Obesity

We are straying away from conventional writing to more informal, abbreviated text in terms of writing skills. There is less focus on proper spelling and grammar and more attention on acronyms, memes, emojis, and other textisms. 

Fight The Suck of Screen Time

Technology brought to us through screens isn't going anywhere; if anything, it has the potential to become more pervasive and suck us into a digital black hole if we allow it. Therefore, it is imperative to create balance for ourselves and our families to avoid or lessen excessive screen time in our lives. 

The purpose of the Binge Battle Screen Time Planournal is to explore and monitor your screen time behavior. Give yourself a screen time check-up by tracking your minutes and hours and the deeper issues of how and why you are in front of the screen and how it may impact the way you communicate with those around you. 

Fight the Suck. Planournal. 

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