Smartphones are an unavoidable part of our lives. They’ve wormed their way into nearly every facet of our existence with an unending variety of apps and special features to choose from. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone. At an astounding 85%, teens and young adults in the 18-29-year age range are the vast majority of smartphone owners.
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It makes sense. These gadgets can be a huge asset with education, work, and social networking tools. As a whole, smartphones present many potential benefits for their owners. However, with the ever-growing issue of smartphone addiction on a steep rise, smartphones may also prove to be the biggest danger facing our families.
“Tech Neck” (Back and Neck Pain)
With young adults spending an average of 8-10 hours a day hunched over their smartphones it’s no real surprise just how much stress and pressure this places on the spine and back. Recent studies in Britain have revealed that young people between the ages of 16-24 are experiencing a shocking jump in back and neck issues, especially chronic pain and disc damage.
Researchers with The British Chiropractic Association have traced these painful issues back to poor posture directly linked with too much smartphone and electronic gadget exposure. The biggest ways to alleviate “tech neck” and reduce the pain and damage lies in our posture. Simply cutting back on smartphone scrolling and making better posture a priority is key to protecting both our spine and neck.
“Text Claw” (Tendinitis)
Although “text claw” isn’t a full-fledged medical term, it’s still a very accurate description for the pain, inflammation, and stiffness that results from too much texting and screen scrolling. One of the biggest signs of too much smartphone use is the chronic and growing pain we feel in our wrists and thumbs. These activities place abnormal stress on the sensitive tendons and muscles within our hands. This pain is an obvious sign that we need to cut back on our phone usage or take a break entirely. Ice, gentle stretches, mild anti-inflammatory medicines, and rest are simple ways to eliminate the current pain and reduce future inflammation.
Poor Sleep Quality
On average, young people between 18-29-years have sheepishly admitted to taking their smartphones to bed with them. Scrolling through endless articles or social media feeds seems like the perfect way to lull yourself to sleep. However, studies show that the “short-wavelength-enriched” blue light from our phones is one of biggest reasons behind poor sleep quality.
This light prevents our bodies from producing melatonin, the hormone vital to relaxing us for sleep. Even a short burst of smartphone or tablet usage before bed can keep us awake for hours later. Avoid smartphones and other bright electronic screens at least several hours before going to bed to ensure a good night’s sleep.
What’s dirtier? A toilet seat or a smartphone? Although a toilet seems like the obvious answer, The University of Arizona found that smartphones can easily carry up to 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat! These numbers are shocking and disgusting to say the least. When we take into account how many times we share our smartphones and tablets these days, the story becomes far worse. Unknowingly, we are exposing ourselves and others to e. coli and other dangerous microbes. Picking set times during the week to disinfect and clean our phones is a simple but critical way to keep ourselves healthy and free from contamination.
Smartphones are a deceptively easy way to spread rumors, gossip, and bullying. Although your family may not be the ones starting mean stories, they can still be easy targets to its poisonous venom. Social media as an extension of our phones is proving to be a subtle but deadly danger among children as young as 11 and 12 years. Depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation are all potential hazards of too much smartphone, tablet and social media exposure, particular late at night. By constantly seeing what “everyone else” is up too, increased smartphone exposure may indirectly affect our own decision-making and self-worth. Making meaningful cutbacks in the time your family spends mobile devices time and spend more time promoting healthier sources of self-worth are effective countermeasures against social media-driven emotional issues.
While smartphones in and of themselves are not evil, too much time and energy investment in them most definitely is. Smartphone addictions usually begin as very small and subtle issues. We may find ourselves and certainly our children as well constantly checking for new texts or social media updates. This deceptive cycle can continue until the “victim” finds themselves scrolling through the late hours of the night. We must take a stand and care for any sign of addiction long before it places our own or our children’s physical health and well-being at risk.
Protecting your children and teens from the effects of excessive screentime means being a positive example with limiting your own device usage as well as setting limits about when they can and cannot use their devices. This should include designating specific limits on how much technology can be used each day, and what apps they can use and when. Setting specific times as device-free times and working as a family to spend time together on a regular basis. This is easy when you use a parental control that offers screentime settings and app blocking features.
Also published on Medium.