The Effects of Screen Time on Our Mental Health 1

As a parent of 3 children, spanning two generations—Gen Z and Gen Alpha —I’ve witnessed first hand the pervasive impact of screen time on mental health. From my teenage, Gen Z children ( well adults now!) grappling with social media pressures to my youngest Gen Alpha, engrossed in digital games, the influence of screens is unmistakable.

Many of the families that I work with also face challenges in regard to either themselves or their partners spending a lot of time on their phones, or other digital devises, but also their children and teenagers. As a therapist understanding these impacts is crucial for fostering healthier habits for both adults and children.

I became curious about the effects on this on our mental health and general well being and rather ironically turned to the internet to find out more, here’s what I discovered;

The Impact on Adults

1. Increased Stress and Anxiety

Excessive screen time, particularly on social media, can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Constant exposure to managed images and updates from others can lead to unhealthy comparisons and a sense of inadequacy. A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that limiting social media usage can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and loneliness​ .

2. Sleep Disruption

The blue light emitted by screens interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. This disruption can lead to insomnia and poor sleep quality, which in turn, affects overall mental health. The Sleep Foundation reports that reducing screen time before bed can improve sleep patterns and mental wellbeing​. Reflecting on this I became aware of how “excited” my brain can get when on social media, or my laptop before bed and how this, for me at least significantly affects my sleep.

3. Digital Fatigue

Extended periods of screen use can lead to digital fatigue, characterized by mental exhaustion, decreased concentration, and irritability. The continuous influx of information requires significant cognitive processing, which can be overwhelming. According to the British Psychological Society we should be taking regular breaks to help mitigate these effects​ .

The Impact on Children

1. Developmental Concerns

Excessive screen time in children is linked to various developmental issues. high levels of screen time can interfere with cognitive development, language skills, and social interaction abilities, particularly those of a younger age. Engaging in screen-free activities is essential for the holistic development of children​ ​.

2. Increased Anxiety and Depression

Similar to adults, children are susceptible to the negative emotional impacts of excessive screen time. Children who spend more time on screens are at a higher risk of developing anxiety, depression, and attention disorders. Encouraging outdoor play and face-to-face interactions can help alleviate these issues​.

3. Sleep Problems

Children who spend too much time on screens, especially before bed, are more likely to experience sleep disturbances. Poor sleep quality can affect their mood, academic performance, and overall health. Establishing screen-free routines, particularly in the evening, can promote better sleep hygiene for children​.

Practical Steps to Reduce Screen Time (for children & adults)

  1. Set Boundaries: Establish clear limits on screen time for both adults and children. Designate specific times of the day for screen-free activities.
  2. Create Digital-Free Zones: Make certain areas of your home, such as bedrooms and dining areas, screen-free to encourage more face-to-face interaction and relaxation.
  3. Engage in Offline Activities: Encourage hobbies and activities that don’t involve screens. Reading, exercising, and playing board games are great alternatives.
  4. Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness practices to help manage stress and improve mental clarity. This can counteract the effects of digital overload.


While screens are an integral part of modern life, it’s important to be mindful of their impact on our mental health. By setting boundaries and promoting healthy screen habits, we can protect our mental wellbeing and foster a more balanced lifestyle for ourselves and our children.

To explore more about the effects of screen time on mental health and discover practical steps for implementing a digital detox see our 2nd blog in the series : The Importance of Digital Detox for Psychological Health and Wellbeing