Screen Time: The Not-So-Silent Performance Deterrent

In a digital age where cell phone usage is near ubiquitous among youths, concerns are rising about the impact of extensive screen time on developing minds. Emerging research has raised valid questions about the influence of this trend on young athletes’ potential to cultivate a high-performance mindset – an essential aspect of excelling in competitive sports. Boost Innovation has shown that performance mindset outcomes decrease as screen time increases.

The Burden of High Screen Time

High screen time, defined as over five hours a day on screens outside of school-related work (Common Sense Media, 2020), is increasingly common among youth. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that teens are spending an average of 7.5 hours per day on screens (Rideout & Robb, 2019). The problem is, these habits seem to be eroding the ability to develop a high-performance mindset, especially in sports.

Research from the Child Mind Institute suggests that excessive screen time can lead to poor sleep quality, difficulty with focus, and increased levels of anxiety and depression (Child Mind Institute, 2020). All these can serve as obstacles to developing mental toughness, perseverance, and goal orientation – core components of the high-performance mindset needed for sports.

A study by Huang et al., (2020) adds more weight to this argument. They found that high screen time was linked to lower physical fitness levels in children and adolescents, a direct detriment to sports performance.

Advantages of Low Screen Time

Contrarily, individuals who decrease their usage (defined as under two hours per day) tend to perform better in sports. They’re typically more physically active, have better sleep patterns, and show improved focus and attention (Huang et al., 2020).

Low screen time enables more time for deliberate practice, a key factor for mastery in sports (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993). Deliberate practice, the targeted, goal-driven exertion of skills, is enhanced by the mental and physical benefits of reduced screen time.

Case Studies: Lebron, Rory, Serena

Consider top-performing athletes like Lebron James, Rory McIlroy, and Serena Williams, who intentionally minimize their screen time. For instance, Lebron James has spoken publicly about his annual “Zero Dark Thirty” social media blackout during the NBA playoffs, a strategy to maximize focus and minimize distractions (Sports Illustrated, 2021).

Rory McIlroy, one of golf’s finest, has often emphasized the value of disconnecting from screens to maintain mental clarity (BBC Sport, 2021). Similarly, tennis legend Serena Williams periodically takes breaks from social media, dedicating her time to training and family (Vanity Fair, 2021). These examples serve as compelling evidence of the advantages of low screen time for athletic prowess.

The Promise of Boost Innovation’s FLW Analytics Project

As the link between high mobile phone usage and reduced sports performance becomes increasingly clear, new solutions are emerging. A promising one is Boost Innovation’s FLW Analytics project ( This initiative aims to use data analytics and machine learning to optimize training and performance in sports by measuring athlete mindset.

By assessing an athlete’s screen time against their mindset performance outcomes, FLW Analytics can provide individualized recommendations for a more balanced digital and athletic lifestyle. This novel approach has the potential to promote a high-performance mindset among young athletes, without completely eradicating screen use – an arguably unrealistic expectation in today’s digital age.

Additionally, the Boost Innovation can provide and facilitate 1on1 support for athletes if required in order to assist in achieving high performance goals.


The research is clear: high cell phone screen time is a hurdle to developing a high-performance mindset in sports. Attention spans, mood, sleep, focus and more are all negatively impacted. Lowering screen time can enhance physical fitness, improve mental well-being, and provide more time for deliberate practice.

For the youth looking to excel in sports, it’s worth following the lead of elite athletes like James, McIlroy, and Williams. Minimizing screen time, backed by innovative solutions like FLW Analytics, may be a significant step towards reaching their athletic potential.

Read more on similar using the popular show Ted Lasso for the lens on learning here.


  1. Common Sense Media (2020). The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2020.
  2. Rideout, V., & Robb, M.B. (2019). The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2019.
  3. Child Mind Institute (2020). How Screen Time Impacts Mental Health.
  4. Huang, W.Y., Wong, S.H., He, G. (2020). Is an increase in screen time associated with a decrease in physical fitness among young people? Journal of Sport and Health Science, 9, 489-498.
  5. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. Th., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363-406.
  6. Sports Illustrated (2021). LeBron James Goes into ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Mode for NBA Playoffs.
  7. BBC Sport (2021). Rory McIlroy: “I need to switch off to switch on.”
  8. Vanity Fair (2021). Serena Williams Reveals Why She Is Taking a Break from Social Media.

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