Do Screens Up = Being Zoned Out?

Perhaps you saw the photos making the rounds on the web. Children with vacant eyes, empty stares, and just generally zoned out.

Photo credit: Donna Stevens

The collection of images, called Idiot Box, were captured by photographer Donna Stevens. She snapped shots of children while they were watching television. As Stevens explains, she “hopes to explore the darker side of our love for technology.” She observes that we have a “co-dependent yet contradictory relationship” with technology and media.

Stevens told The Huffington Post that she was inspired to create the series after watching her own son use an iPad. She asked kids to pick a favorite show to watch and then snapped their expressions. The vacant, zoned-out looks struck a chord when they hit the Internet. No one wants to think of kids being induced into a trance-like state by television or a video game. When you look at Stevens’ photos, you can imagine the gold pocket swinging back and forth while an eerie voice says, “you are getting sleepy…”

These photographs involved little kids, and so they hit us right in the heart. But I venture to guess that if you walk into most offices around 3 pm, the adults would look pretty similar. Why? Because most of our jobs involve staring at screens – computer screens, phones, or tablets. The effects of being stuck in front of a screen for hours are similar regardless of the type of screen.

A main reason we tend to zone out during screen time is that we look at screens while sitting down. When you sit, your body essentially shuts down. Your blood flows more sluggishly. Less oxygen circulates through your brain. Your muscles are disengaged. When you don’t engage your body physically, then your brain doesn’t fire quite as quickly and your energy level starts to get zapped. The vacant stare and head bobs soon set in.

Right now you might reach for another cup of coffee to keep you going, but a caffeinated solution isn’t sustainable. The amount of time we spend looking at screens only is going to increase. Think of the kids in Stevens photos. They have been exposed to television screens like we were, but also iPads, phones, and computers. Looking at a screen nearly all day will (or already does) seem normal to them.

While using screens may be normal, we should aim to make activity while using screens normal, too. We need to shake up our daily habits so that we don’t fall into an inactive, screen staring trap. My company designs products to help people be more active while on the computer at work, but I take that message even farther. At home, my children stand up if they want to have screen time. I help people assess their screen time and find no-cost ways to sneak in more activity.

No one wants their kids or themselves to have that vacant, empty stare. We want to be engaged with the world around us, energized and ready to soak it in. I applaud Stevens for shedding a personal light on this issue and hope it encourages more people to assess their own screen-time habits.

Le’ts say good-bye to vacant stares and hello to engaged faces!


* This article was originally written by Rebel Desk Founder, Kathleen Hale on LinkedIn. 

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