The Impacts of Screen Time on Student Athletes

This article will dive into the impacts of screen time on student-athletes, and why one should consider allocating their time better.

By Carter Thompson — November 30, 2023


The Impacts of Screen Time on Student Athletes

As student-athletes, we must be mindful of everything we consume. As humans, we become a reflection of the environment we surround ourselves with. Whether it's drugs, alcohol, bad food, bad content, etc. If you consume junk, then you will feel and perform like junk. Electronics impact every area of our lives, both positively and negatively, and we use them for everything. Many of us spend countless hours in front of screens—especially our smartphones—without realizing how it could be impacting our performance. This article will dive into the impacts of screen time on student-athletes, and why one should consider allocating their time better.


Our Digital Age

Our modern digital age allows us the opportunity to squeeze the most productivity out of each hour of the day. Our pocket-sized smartphones, for example, are constantly being updated to be more capable and efficient. These capabilities allow us to make more connections and truly revolutionized our lives by streamlining everything we possibly need.

This constant connection also allows us to fill every restless, bored, unstimulating moment with screen time. This is the true cost of these devices, and it reaches far beyond monetary. Constant overstimulation of our brains depletes focus and mental energy, leading to poor performance. Screen time also costs us our time, creativity, life experiences, and more. Electronics can easily take over our lives, so we must be keenly aware of our responsibility to keep them in check as college athletes. We must be wise, educated, and intentional about what we spend our time doing and how before we become consumed by this toxic digital environment.

Social Impacts

For student-athletes, the battlefield for bettering ourselves and reaching new heights lies in our minds. When we view the "highlight reels" of others on social media, it can quickly lower our self-esteem as we compare our daily selves to their best selves. A lack of motivation, discipline, and purpose can arise out of our ideas of perfection. Normalizing an ideal distracts you from your life, damaging your mental health and leaving you feeling lonely. It's a cycle that will repeat as you spend more time online searching for purpose when your purpose is right in front of you. As students and athletes, we should strive to serve and love the people around us as we grow to become the best versions of ourselves during your education. Screen time, especially spent on your smartphone or online social outlets, has damaging impacts on your social life that can quickly impact your mental and social health.

Rest/Sleep Impacts

Spending too much time in front of screens damages recovery as well. Student-athletes aren't limited by our training as often as we tend to experience limitations on how well we can recover from our high-intensity training and be ready for the next session. When we spend time on electronics—anything from a relaxing TV show to an intense video game—we aren't in a fully restful state as our mind and body consume this stimulus. Therefore, your body can be left in a state of constant low stress as you consume hours of content. This undoubtedly damages your recovery, as your mind and body lack enough restful hours in your week to recover from your intense schedule.

Electronics can even damage your sleep by either keeping you up and sleeping less or by exposure to the screen's light that's perceived very similar to sunlight by your brain and eyes. This post-sundown exposure to this stimulating light interrupts your sleep cycles and circadian rhythm, ultimately hindering your sleep quality. About an hour should be between the last time you viewed a screen/bright light and the time you want to be asleep. Instead of looking at a screen before bed, read a good book, journal, pray/meditate, or plan out the next day. Screen time damages your restful hours. Mitigating it, especially late-night screen exposure, is a top priority if you want to recover and perform at your best.

Time is Priceless

Time is our most valuable asset. Yes, it's cliché, but whether youre aware of it or not, the time and attention you give to your phone is the product that many online companies profit from. If you want to know more, watch the incredible Netflix documentary Social Dilemma where you'll realize how you are the product of social media. Your time is what digital companies capitalize on, and you only have so much time in a day. Why waste your brain's creativity consuming other people's ideas and selling your time to the internet? Instead, consider investing your time and energy into your relationships, education, hobbies, or a second source of income. I strongly encourage you to only use devices in moderation as a means of enhancing other aspects of your life. Grow yourself by becoming a better version of yourself—it's one of the most rewarding parts of life, and is why many of us find ourselves attracted to life as a college athlete. Your time in this life is a beautiful gift, a miracle, so spend it wisely.

Concluding Thoughts

Student athletes tend to live a life filled with intentionality. If we lack discipline and consistent effort, our performance suffers. It is important to more intentionally consider how we allocate our time. This helps us to capitalize on the few formative, beautiful years of college we experience. The best version of yourself is spent living your life doing the things you love with the people and teammates you enjoy. Live freely and enjoying the world around you!

Carter Thompson

Carter Thompson

Carter is currently seeking his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science under the Pre-Physical Therapy Program at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He will go on to complete his Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree at an accredited university with the end goal of applying industry-leading recovery treatments as a Physical Therapist for either Division I or professional athletic teams.
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