Reduced use of the internet and screens

Isn’t the enemy really all screen time? Unfortunately the more time we spend with the media and screens, the less time we spend with reality.

A solution is to limit our time on all screens. Could you limit your time on screens to 5 hours a week? 10 hours a week? 15 hours a week?

A recent study of teens found that the happiest ones spent 5 hours or less per week on screens. Though they were actually happier than teens who spent no time at all on screens, over 5 hours a week the teens became progressively more and more miserable. I don’t know if there is a study yet involving adults, but perhaps the results would be about the same.

We single out social media because it’s the “worst”. Yet according to the study’s results, yes social media is very bad but the internet (!) and computer games are even worse. They are displacing people’s time with each other and with the real world. Is it the problem the internet and information technology in general?

Why is it such a taboo to be against anything more than a minimal use of the internet and information technology when we have so much documented evidence of its harm? 20 years ago computers were considered the domain of miserable insular nerds. Yet today it seems we’ve all become miserable insensates that are stuck on screens instead of living life.

Today our society and governments are encouraging us to use screens, instead of encouraging us to limit our screen time. Look at how much funding and support there is for creating the “next Silicon Valley”, for computers in schools, for learning to code, for education based on screens. And what is lost is support for the real world and the things people actually enjoy. Are we misguided?


I agree, in part…

There are lotsa downsides to how we use our technology, spend our time behind the screen. But IMHO we shouldn’t make it too black & white. The internet is still full of beautiful sources of information that we otherwise would not come across (like many of the URL’s shared in this forum, for instance).

The internet is just being dominated more and more by parties that want to entice us to spend time on it in ways that are not productive and even unhealthy. Even parties that benefit from disinformation, and growing rifts between communities, rifts between people.

A certain level of information awareness, catching up on news (either on paper or digital) from proper sources, the quality stuff, is essential for our humanity to thrive. Without it, without sufficient people to participate, for instance, our democracy would die. This is already an issue. Democracy is under heavy assault. Being able to consume global sources of information, from different perspectives, allows us to remain objective yet critical, and be aware of nefarious trends. And act to alleviate them…

Sometimes I wished I was not so well-informed. Wished I would give up on technology, live in nature and out in the woods. But I would be a sheep, knowing that the wolves are getting stronger, and will eventually get me. Then I’d rather be a canary in the tree, singing my warning song, and trying to warn before the tree is cut down :slight_smile:

PS. I know (from previous discussions) that you share this view (more or less), just wanted to give this explicit reaction for sake of forum discussion. So let’s minimize screen time and stay well-informed!


@aschrijver This is about reducing screen time, not avoiding screens altogether.

I’m sure there are good uses of screens. The study I first mentioned says teens were happiest when they used screens less than 5 hours a week, but more than zero.

You also mention how great the internet is. Yet the study results show internet use is the worst for teenager happiness. Apparently the internet, social media and video games all made teens very unhappy, but the internet is the worst.

1 Like

Wisdom is knowing how to use a tool.

Insanity is using the tool the wrong way and expecting the right result every time.

I can use a hammer to build a house or to kill someone. It takes time for facts, lessons to accumulate into something we call wisdom. It could be that exposing children to too much of the Internet is like taking them to a brothel and expecting them to learn about sex.

Love is part of the equation. Love is part of maturity.


It’s not taboo- even though it feels that way. Never be afraid to speak up about risks and health concerns.

Technology will not go away- but it will not overcome us- it will be redirected. We cannot let technology be a way of the future- humanity is the future. Technogoly is a tool to get there. Technology must not harm or take away our health or development. The freight train slowly ran off the track long ago and needs to be guided back on again.

It just takes lots of dialogue and patience with each other and time…

1 Like

I have brought up limiting media usage with friends. People freaked, one even said I should become a caveman.

All I did was simply ask the question if we should reduce our internet use. I absolutely believe we should be online and have been misunderstood.

I have presented evidence, simply in hopes of getting input and to see if anybody else knew anything about the subject.

I have seen in myself and girlfriend, that we have both become depressed from using the internet too much. I normally try to limit my personal internet use by not using social media, and by limiting news, browsing and watching video.

Actually spending time on this forum made me depressed, as at one point I spent 8 hours here over the course of 3 days and that internet usage made me quite miserable.

I work as a webmaster. For the last 10 years. I have found that the less personal time I spend on the internet, I produce is of better quantity and quality work. There is a direct correlation for me, less personal time on the internet = more productivity.

I also feel better when I spend less time online. My best days are those with less than one hour a day on the screen. My worst ones are the ones with the most screen time.

My job is the internet, and I spend on average 20 hours a week working plus another 15-20 hours a week on personal use including watching video. About a third of the year I do not work at all and feel happiest, and another third of the year I work 40 hours a week which definitely feels like way too much and quite crushing. The other third of the year I work 20 hours a week which is not so bad. I think if I spent any more time working online I would be aloof and weird like the freaks who work in Silicon Valley.

I like to spend 30 hours a week going out, another 5 hours a week cooking, another 10 hours a week relaxing and another 5+ hours a week exercising, and these are all things I can’t do if I’m online. Ideally I would like to spend more time going out and exercising because I feel that would make me happier, but I can’t due to the time I spend online for work and for personal use.

Regarding the study, yes I believe that more than an hour a day really is bad for teens. The story for adults seems different. As @patm mentioned “wisdom is knowing how to use a tool”.

Many people here and my friends have said, the internet makes them happy. This study of adults says the same! People with internet are much happier than those without it. The study with teens says the same, that teens with no screen time are less happy than those who spend 5 hours a week online. But it also says teens who spend more than 5 hours a week are less happy than those who spend 5 hours a week online.

I find this difficult to understand. I think what’s missing from the adult study is the amount of time people spend online. It only looks at if they are online or offline which isn’t relevant to my question.

My question has only been, at what level of internet use are we the happiest?

Does anybody know of any studies relating the amount of time adults spend online or with screens and their happiness levels?

Could somebody please answer, how many hours a week should an adult spend online to be happiest? Is it 5 hours a week? 10 hours? 15 hours? 50 hours?

1 Like

“Apparently the internet, social media and video games all made teens very unhappy, but the internet is the worst.”

Kids should be told from a young age about the social pitfslls of social media internet etc…

We tell kids they will get cavities from sugar so why cant we tell them what they are getting into with computer use?

Thanks for sharing deeper into what the experience of taboo is for you. I think i know what you are saying.

Most of my friends are not on screens. I know the look, the clueless parental look of excitement with technology. At my daughter’s tech heavy school, I’m pretty isolated because I see the habits- ignoring people at pickup- standing in tbe middle of the street checking messages… Normally i stay clear of people with rude social behavior- so the cell phone thing is a clue that the parent has no awareness of screentime and the social isolation created by it- the people around them etc…

One way i deal with thus is not talk about it with people- but drop a comment like- “look out your in the middle of the hallway just standing there on your phone- its kind of well… weird” I only do this when it is totally odd looking- when the person is holding up traffic or blocking a doorway- or when yiu know the person is totally lost just standing there. I always do this in good humor too- and not everyday.

Check out this previous post-

I hope some sort of clear guidelines or a formula easily understood by everyone like a map will come out on how to navigate the web in a healthy way.

as well as the healthy use of devices online and offline.

Again I don’t see anything wrong with being online. In fact both of the studies I mentioned say people who are online are happier than those who are not.

It’s just how much people are on screens, and for stupid reasons or at the wrong times. When I spy on stranger’s phones they are full grown adults with high paying jobs, yet they’re playing moronic games or browsing photos like addicted brainless zombies.

What freaks me out is the statistics of screen usage in places like the United States. The average per day in 2017:

  • TV = 4 hours (!!!)
  • mobile (excluding calls) = 3 hours 10 minutes (!!!)
  • computers = 2 hours
  • other internet devices = 30 minutes

That’s 10 hours per day on average on screens! How can anybody live like that? I would kill myself. Really and 10 hours is the average. What the hell is wrong with people? Do US people even sleep anymore or they just obese consumers who sit in front of a screen all day? I mean what the hell!

That is why I asked, would people be happier if they spent no more than 1 or 2 hours a day in front of screens? Again I support that people are online, just that I would like to ask if less time in front of screens (still being online, but for less time) would make them happier. Does anybody know of any studies or statistics about happiness related to the amount of screen time for adults?

This is important, because according to statistics I found that in the US people spend so much time in front of screens and this has increased in the last few years due to smartphone which did not exist before. The stats show that in the US people are now giving up social activities, hobbies and sleep so they can spend more time on screens because this is the only way they can find more time to be on their smartphones since they have no time left in their days. Giving up social activities, hobbies and sleep is a new phenomenon as of the last 2 years or so and the stats show that it has been getting worse. I am theorizing that it’s due to dark addictive patterns.

There is a lot of studies to be found, but also most of it target teens and adolescents. This articles has some nice references on both:

Mentioning again Sherry Turkle, psychologist and researcher at MIT.

This article by David Brooks is good too.

Thanks. I have looked for the studies and already have seen the article you mentioned any many like it. Seems pretty much every new outlet has one version of this article as the teen study was a major news event this year.

What’s missing is a study on adult screen time and happiness. Also missing is a study on adult smartphone use and happiness. Or a study on adult happiness which differentiates by type of screen or activity. Any academics here?

But what we know. There are many studies on social media leading to unhappiness in adults. There are the studies saying people with internet (broadband, not mobile) are happier than those without internet. Then there is the teens study saying those who spent 5 hours a week in front of screen were happiest.

Oh pity. I am not an expert in the field. I was referring to this paragraph in the article:

A similar trend might be occurring for adults: My co-authors and I previously found that adults over age 30 were less happy than they were 15 years ago, and that adults were having sex less frequently. There may be many reasons for these trends, but adults are also spending more time with screens than they used to. That might mean less face-to-face time with other people, including with their sexual partners. The result: less sex and less happiness.

and its links…

Yes I know. The studies are very interesting because they talk about sex and also inequality. But like the other studies I mentioned there is nothing relating the quantity of adult screen time to happiness levels.

We can guess, but unless we have study results for adult screen time and happiness these will just be educated guesses.

Before the internet people used to say what makes you happiest? And people would say sex. Why? People would say because sex uses all the body’s senses, touching, smell, seeing, listening and moving. And that’s what’s missing from the internet compared to the real world, we’re missing the senses of moving, smelling and touching. And maybe that’s why people seem less happy with large amounts of screen time verses living real life by going out or doing other real life activities.

My take, and this is my opinion based off of all I’ve read, is that a bit of internet is better than none because it opens up a whole new world with power, connectivity and limitless information. But the internet and screen time is best left as something to do in our down time – that’s probably the one or maybe 2 hours maximum per day when you’re physically and mentally recovering from being active in the real world all day.

Some people like me have little choice but to be online since I get paid maybe $100 per hour of my work on a computer which is much more than I would make in another job and for much easier work. Yes the screen time hours will make us unhappy, but then again there are other jobs too which can make us unhappy. In an ideal world we could have jobs without screens and that would be the perfect goal and I know a few people who do this such a flight attendants, musicians and theatre technicians. However the reality is that jobs without screens have become much rarer and usually pay less.

Perhaps that is why adults are less happy now than before. Because before adults did not work in front of screens! As my dad the university professor said 25 years ago in 1993 when his job shifted from electronic typewriter to computer, “the computer is the devil”. Was he was right? These days he doesn’t fail to put in occasional 10 hour days writing on his computer and doesn’t seem any less happy.

1 Like

As far as i know there are not much studies on adults about screen time and internet use. Studies are important because I think what the younger people experience are quite similar with what adults encounter on using tech. Personally what i have been seeing that the longer your screentime it becomes unhealthy emotionally speaking as well as physically and socially. ( smartphone or computer ). On social media I’ve seen a sort of mood swing of a lot of users adult and young people especially long term users based on what I saw on their post and in real life interaction. Happy today suddenly sad in another day and vice versa. Obviously less screentime is the way forward and less time on social media too. ( to be used as much as possible for connecting with loved ones or friends but not much ) There must be some sort of life balance especially on tech. use. Moderation in everything is still the rule.


Again this is not about adults, but new studies related to media use of children, so I add the link here anyway for reference:

Up until a few years ago parenting advice centred around the concept of “screen time” quotas with a Goldilocks-style sweet spot of two or so hours of screens a day, beyond which media use could become harmful.
A study of 20,000 parents published late last year by the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University determined that there was no correlation between limiting device use and children’s wellbeing.
Another study from December by the University of Michigan on people aged four to 11 similarly found that “how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction”. But the authors said that concern over a child’s screen use is warranted when it leads to poor behaviour, loss of interest in other activities, family or social life, withdrawal, or deception.
“It’s important there is balance in the online and offline worlds and in leisure and learning, but what that looks like for different kids at different ages and in different families is hard to ‘prescribe’,” says Brewer. “Research shows that not having access to the digital world has a negative impact on kids – so its about finding the right amount with a holistic approach.”

1 Like