2 Screens Aren’t Better Than 1: The Dangers of Media Multitasking
You’re streaming that hit drama—and must find out which actress plays the sister. At halftime in the game, you hit send on
one last email.
Sound familiar? It should. By some estimates, about 87 percent of people watching
TV do so with another digital device in hand.
This trend is sometimes called second screening or media multitasking. It’s music
to many marketers’ ears—after all, it means more ad views and mindless clicks on “buy.”
But such digital distraction isn’t always good for bodies and brains bathed in the
The Trouble with Juggling
From the wired-up TVs on our walls to the smartwatches on our wrists, our brains feel
the pull of demanding devices more than ever.
Our neural networks weren’t designed for such a constant barrage of information. Scientists
are still working to understand the effects. Some studies show that heavy multitaskers:
Forget things more often
Have trouble paying attention
Behave more impulsively
Form inaccurate impressions of other people
Risk social anxiety and depression
Are more often obese
Have less gray matter in areas of the brain linked to control of thoughts and emotions
The impact may be more significant on kids’ and teens’ developing brains.
Is there ever an upside? It’s possible. But researchers haven’t found clear evidence
that media multitaskers even become better at doing more than one thing at once.
Stay Smart About Screen Time
Experts recommend that everyone should carefully think about how they engage with
media. Need to cut back on your screen time? Here are some tips to get started:
Try a digital detox. Spend some time—a week, if you can—phone-free. Notice how you feel. Then aim to build
in more low-tech periods throughout your day.
Shut off alerts. Disable notifications on social media and messaging apps. These constant pings may
negatively affect your well-being.
Make household rules. Declare some spaces and times—say, dinner and bedrooms—device-free. Engage in screen-free
family actives, such as sports and reading. You’ll model healthy, balanced technology
use for your children from an early age.