Without a doubt, we’re in a time where technology use is unprecedented. It’s unlikely that will change anytime soon. But awareness is growing around certain addictive behaviours that arise as a result of too much screen time.

Screen addiction can happen when screen use is so compulsive it impairs daily functioning. This could be affecting your productivity, relationships, health or wellbeing.

When the WHO added gaming disorder to their list of diseases, they didn’t talk about it in hours of screen time, rather the impact the hours spent gaming on a screen actually has: “For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”

Using phone at night

In general, three behaviours can help you identify whether you may be becoming addicted to your device:

  • Cravings. Do you want to look at your devices, sometimes at the expense of other activities? That’s a craving.
  • Tolerance. Do you increasingly need to spend more time on your phone? If your screen usage is going up, your tolerance is going up. You need more time to get the same fulfilment as before.
  • Withdrawal. Do you feel a change in your mood for the worse when you can’t use your device? People can feel agitated, sad or even angry when their phones not available.

Asking these questions isn’t supposed to make you feel bad about yourself. Addiction is a very charged word, and there are plenty of reasons your screen use may be higher than usual – especially during the current COVID-19 situation or if you work using a screen.

Try not to compare yourself with others, but instead focus on how your screen time makes you feel and how you feel without it.