Screen time’s up 185%... so what?

Lifestyle Editor Jess Herbert defends spending more time on your phone during lockdown

Jess Herbert
7th June 2020
Image: Yingjin on Wikimedia Commons

Being locked inside has forced many of us to unlock our phones and waste hours in our electronic bubbles. But is this always a bad thing?

Here on the Lifestyle section, we’ve written extensively about how you can detox from social media or cut your screen time because we’ve consistently equated using your phone with unproductivity, poor mental health and low self-esteem. 

Therefore, when The Washington Post reported that screen time has increased by as much as 185%, we should be horrified. We should be concerned about the psychological implications that this has on developing minds, or the surge in anxiety as users compare their uneventful quarantines with those who have learnt French, baked 12 banana breads and started their own charities. But somehow, I feel the opposite. 

Texting back and forth may be an imperfect substitute for conversation, but it’s close enough

For the first time in my life, I’ve realised that going on your phone can be beneficial. Technology is often condemned for being an escape from the real world but, while we’ve been isolated from friends and family, messaging and video calling have been a vital way to stay connected to it. Texting back and forth may be an imperfect substitute for conversation, but it’s close enough. Despite being geographically separated, this has been an invaluable channel of communication to remind me that my loved ones are only a click away, in turn reducing loneliness.

Similarly, I’ve witnessed my younger brother stay connected to his education through online resources. Normally, his screen time would be strictly monitored but, now that classrooms are virtual, things are different. His teachers send his worksheets as editable PDFs and signpost him towards homeschooling videos on BBC Bitesize. Furthermore, using more technology works as a treat to reward children for coping so well when their normal routines have been completely eradicated. 

Technology has become a weapon to fight against systemic racism

And, of course, the most significant use of phones right now is as a political tool for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Technology has become a weapon to fight against systemic racism. Obviously, social media is not enough, but it’s a great gateway into activism. From the variety of educational infographics circulating on people’s stories, to the ‘swipe up’ links enabling petitions to be signed within seconds. There are email templates to send to your local MP, charities to contribute to, videos to watch that donate their ad revenue - the list is endless.

There’s a million resources available to learn about white privilege and racial inequality, so you can join the fight virtually - which is especially important if you’re not in the position to attend a protest. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel guilty increasing your screen time if it means you’re accessing this information and educating yourself.

Perhaps we’ve been too harsh on technology. During these unprecedented times, maybe using your phone more can actually be hugely beneficial to combat loneliness and stay involved in current affairs. So don’t be too harsh on yourself if you’re spending more time staring at a screen, because there’s probably a fair reason behind it. 

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