laptop and phone and coffee
By: Beth Maddaleni ’20

At any given moment on our campus, in Starbucks, online at Dunks, waiting for a class to begin, at home, or in our dorms, we’re bound to see someone’s face basking in the light of their device.

College students can’t escape their dependence on the screen and the keys, and schoolwork isn’t our only excuse for being tethered to technology. We’re texting; watching videos and movies; posting on social media or scrolling through it, hopping from one link to another, taking the long road to nowhere. Or not. That road may lead to mental health issues and poor sleep habits associated with low physical activity and too much screen time.

A 2015 study of Chinese College Students showed low amounts of physical activity and high amounts of screen time can lead to poor sleep patterns, anxiety, depression and other mental disorders. The researchers concluded that “interventions” that increase physical activity and decrease screen time should be implemented, and further research should be done to evaluate these interventions’ effectiveness on mental health, sleep, and “well being.”

A Frontiers in Psychology article, “Technology and College Student Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities,” asserts college students have experienced a recent rise in “depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses,”thanks to the increased use of “computing technologies”; however, technology can also be used to improve mental health and treat mental illness. For example, if a negative mental-health effect of personal computers is “fear of missing out,” a positive effect would be engaging with peers through “online support groups and message boards.” Though in-person counseling has a better record of engagement than “technology-enabled mental health services,” the authors suggest college students might be more likely to use the digital approach because of their comfort level with technology.

Did you know?

A 2001-16 survey of the United State population showed the prevalence of sitting and watching television or videos for two hours or more a day remained steady and high among all age groups, while time spent on the computer outside work or school increased.—“Trends in Sedentary Behavior Among the US Population, 2001-2016,” Lin Yang, PhD et al, JAMA Network, April, 2019.

Health Tip!

Exchange at least a half hour of screen time a day for a half hour of physical activity. Why? Regular aerobic activity helps people sleep better, helping to counter mental-health issues related to sleep deprivation. The Mayo Clinic considers brisk walking and swimming examples of “Moderate aerobic activity,” while running’s an example of “vigorous aerobic activity.”