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10 ways your phone is harming you

3 May 2016
4 minute read

man with phone

Your phone is your primary source of information, news and entertainment and a safety net. While most people are aware that spending too much time looking at a screen is probably not good for them, they might not understand the extent of the damage smartphone abuse is doing to their health and wellbeing. Here are ten ways in which your phone might be harming you.

1. Damage to your postureYour head weighs 5kg. Research has shown that for every two centimetres you drop your head forward, you double the load on your spine. This means that when you are hunched over your phone, you are probably placing an uncentred load equal to around 20kg on your skeleton. No wonder your neck and shoulders ache! This condition is known as text neck and it’s becoming more and more prevalent.

2. Addiction
Do you ever sit with your phone, randomly swapping between Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and email, waiting for something to happen? If you can’t find your phone or your battery has died, do you feel anxious, restless or irritable? These are signs of smart phone addiction. Just like a drug addict, you are constantly searching for your next high, and can’t cope if you are not getting it.

3. Relationship problem
Research has shown that increased smart phone usage is having an effect on relationships, causing the other partner to feel rejected or ignored, and negatively affecting communication. This alienation of a partner through smart phone use has become so common, it even has a name: phubbing (phone + snubbing).

4. Social difficulty
In the same way as life partners may feel ignored, smart phone usage can also affect friendships. Many people are now spending increasing amounts of time maintaining superficial “online” relationships while ignoring the real people right in front of them. There’s nothing worse than being with a friend who is constantly checking their phone and losing track of what you were saying.

5. Attention problems
In the fast-paced world of the internet and social media, people are contacting you through various channels, news sites never sleep, and people you don’t know are giving you a glimpse into their fascinating lives on Instagram. You probably even read updates on your phone while watching TV. Little wonder, then, that it’s hard to stay focused on one task in the real world. This has become such a problem that scientists say that the human attention span has been reduced to eight seconds – yup, we’ve become goldfish.

6. Harm to your eyes
Cell phones and tablets emit blue-violet light, because it is the brightest way to backlight a screen. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to this kind of light can lead to macular degeneration, the loss of central vision, which is one of the leading causes of blindness.

7. Thumb injuries
Touch-screen mobile technology is relatively new, so there have been no long-term studies on the lasting impact of ongoing swiping and tapping with your thumb. Even so, doctors are starting to report cases of repetitive strain injuries to thumbs, and recent studies have shown that cases of “thumb fatigue” are on the rise.

8. Sleep problems
The overuse of smart phones has a two-prong affect on your sleep. One problem is the addiction that we’ve already mentioned – phones are so compelling that it’s hard to put them down even when it’s time to go to sleep, and some people even check them throughout the night. The other problem is the blue light that phones emit, which tells your brain that it’s day time, even when it’s dark outside and you should be going to sleep.

9. Distraction from parenting
Most parents hope that their children will use smart phones less than they do – and yet are unable to lead by example. Children are having to compete with a device for attention instead of receiving the attention and focus that they deserve. There are numerous studies into the phenomenon of the smart-phone-addicted parent, but parents already know that what they are doing is wrong. It’s a sign of how strong the addiction is that they are unable to stop themselves.

10. Lowered physical activity
Many naturally fit people who once used their free time to walk around the block, go for a run or kick a ball in the park are now finding that spending time on their phones is just more compelling. Simply put, cell phones are causing our fitness levels to drop. This is especially true among young adults.

Tips for healthy smart phone usage Smart phones have changed the way that we live, work and socialise. They are useful, informative and entertaining, but they do have the potential to negatively impact on our mental and physical health. Here are some tips for healthy smart phone use:

  • Get your eyes tested regularly.
  • Take frequent breaks to give your eyes, neck and mind a break.
  • Stop using your phone at least half an hour and preferably an hour before bed time.
  • Don’t charge your phone in your bedroom if you are unable to resist a midnight peek.
  • Allocate specific times of the day – mealtimes and family time, for instance – as no-phone periods.
  • Don’t feel pressured to immediately respond to messages or emails.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on social media and email
  • Make an active effort to be present for your friends, partner and children

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