Cal Poly study aims to reduce screen usage, even after COVID-19

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We’re months into the coronavirus now, and with most of us either jobless or working from home, and with so few businesses fully open, it can feel like the days are filled with nothing but staring at screens.

That’s made an ongoing Cal Poly study—which aims to find ways to help people reduce screen time—even more relevant than when researchers first started their work about a year ago.

“We suspect people are spending a lot more time on their screens as a result of COVID,” said Sarah Kozey Keadle, an associate professor in Cal Poly’s Department of Kinesiology and Public Health.
KILL YOUR TV  A Cal Poly study led by professor Sarah Kozey Keadle aims to find the best ways to get people to reduce their time in front of screens. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • KILL YOUR TV A Cal Poly study led by professor Sarah Kozey Keadle aims to find the best ways to get people to reduce their time in front of screens.

That’s not a good thing, Keadle said, since there’s plenty of observational data suggesting that those who watch a lot of TV are at a higher risk of contracting various diseases and dying earlier. Even before COVID-19, various studies and surveys have found that Americans spend nearly half their waking hours in front of a screen—watching TV, playing video games, and scrolling social media.



Despite all the evidence that screen time is bad for health, Keadle said there hasn’t been a lot of research into the best ways to reduce screen use. That’s what Keadle hopes to do in a study she’s leading at Cal Poly.

Using StandUPTV, a smartphone-based app, Keadle and her colleagues at Cal Poly and Arizona State University will test three screen time reduction strategies. Some participants will receive regular text messages encouraging them to get away from their devices when they’ve been binge watching or scrolling. Through another method, participants can earn screen time through exercise, and in another, participants will be locked out of their devices when they reach their max screen time each week.

Through these interventions and a self-monitoring routine, the research team hopes to help people cut their sedentary screen time by 50 percent and will examine how the reductions impact physical activity, sleep, diet, mood, and disease risk factors.

While Keadle’s team has been working on the planning portion of the project for about a year, the actually intervention portion of the study will begin this fall. Cal Poly is currently looking for 120 community members willing to participate in the study.

Eligible participants must be ages 23 to 64, own a smartphone or tablet, and have internet access with no limit on the amount of data. Anyone interested in participating or learning more about the study can call (805) 756-5506 or fill out an interest form here: https://asuhealthpromotion.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cJ5xlIQajCfAEHb.∆

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