The Dichotomy of Screen-based Lifestyles – Toxic or Villainized?

Etchells et al. (2017) asserted that screen-based lifestyles are creating “moral panic” (p.1) and that the claims of adverse effects of screen time on behaviours and development lack research-based evidence.  This multi-authored open letter published in the Guardian would appear to be in response to the palpable rate that technology is manifesting in our lives and the often-heard expression of concern from the masses surrounding the rate in which it is arriving.  Tamana, S.K et al. (2019) concluded that there is, in fact, evidence to suggest a correlation between screen time and stress, which was established through the collection and analyzation of research participant’s saliva. The study found that there was a relationship between the use of screened devices and the rise in cortisol levels, which is the hormone indicated with a rise in stress levels. Stress has been found to lead to obesity in adolescents (Murray, Rieger, & Byrne, p., 2015) and illness, depression, and anxiety in college students (Rawson, Bloomer, & Kendall, p., 1994). These findings indicated that excessive stress could be physically unhealthy, and if there is a direct correlation between screen time and stress as suggested by Tamana et al. (2019), it can be concluded that excessive screen time is physically unhealthy.  Alternately, however, not having access to screen time can also affect behaviour and cause stress.  Konok, Pogany, & Miklosi (2017) found experimental support to conclude that humans form attachments to their mobile devices and seek proximity to them when separated.  I have felt the jolt of panic and the physiological symptoms of anxiety when my iPhone has been misplaced, and then the re-stabilization of my nervous system when (finally) safely back in my hands.  I believe there is a balance needed but hypothesize and agree with Etchells et al. (2017) that further quality research studies are needed surrounding this topic to establish the impact of digital technologies.

Etchells, P., et al. (January 6, 2017). Screen time guidelines should be built on evidence, not hype. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Konok, V., Pogány, A., Miklósi, A. (2017). Mobile attachment: Separation from the mobile phone induces physiological and behavioural stress and attentional bias to separation-related stimuli, Computers in Human Behavior, 71, p.228-239

Rawson, H., Bloomer, K., & Kendall, A. (1994). Stress, anxiety, depression, and physical illness in college students. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 155(3), p.321-330, doi: 10.1080/00221325.1994.9914782

Tamana, S.K., Ezeugwu, V., Chikuma, J., Lefebvre, D.L., Azad, M., Moraes, T. J., … Mandhane, P. J. (2019). Screen-time is associated with inattention problems in preschoolers: Results from the CHILD birth cohort study. PLoS ONE, 14(4), p.1–15.

Murray, K., Rieger, E., & Byrne, D. (2015). The relationship between stress and body satisfaction in female and male adolescents. Stress and Health, 31(1), p.13-23. doi:10.1002/smi.2516



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