Our last blog article focused on all the ways you can use technology to improve your health — things like food information, recipe finders, exercise programs, fitness trackers, and more.
This article is the other side of the coin: How Technology Can Hurt Your Health
Here are a few of the most common ways that regular use of technology might not be so good for your health:
Obesity – With everything we have on our mobile devices, including movies, shopping, games, news, work, and more – we are less required to physically do as many things. We can do all we need from the comfort of our favorite chair. This by itself isn’t a cause of obesity but combined with the wrong foods, this largely sedentary lifestyle can lead to you becoming overweight. If you think you are at risk of spending too much time sitting down with your devices, set a reminder on your device to get up and take a walk (even with your device) or do something active.
Vision Problems – Our mothers warned us that sitting too close to the TV would hurt our eyes. Well, it turns out they were right! But now instead of sitting too close to the TV, we have our eyes glued to our screens for hours at a time. As if just looking at screens wasn’t bad enough, when we do it in lower light conditions such as bedtime, nighttime or just in a dark room, the effect on our eyes is magnified. Turn your screen brightness down when you are in a low light area. Set timers to remind yourself to take breaks away from the screen every 20 minutes to let your eyes relax.
Muscular Strain – When using a mobile device, your neck, back, and arms are often in a “held” position for long periods of time (which may also include bad posture) while your fingers and hands are doing repetitive motions which they may not be used to. All this can lead to muscle strain from bad forms held for longer periods of time or over-use of certain parts for long periods of time. Watch how you sit/stand with your devices, whether you slouch your shoulders and hang your head to see your device and how much time you are spending typing. Take breaks, change positions, and even do stretches if necessary to keep your muscles from being strained.
Insomnia – Experts agree that viewing bright screens within two hours of bedtime can interfere with good sleep. Your brain just doesn’t “shut off” after being subjected to the bright distraction. Try limiting your screen time as bedtime nears or at least turn down the brightness so your eyes and brain aren’t so stimulated before bed.
Mental Health Issues – Technology use has been linked to a number of negative affects including a loss of social skills, lack of focus, depression, and even Internet addiction. We largely use our devices to communicate with others — in some cases almost exclusively – – and our self image and self worth is linked to our online personas — our social media platforms and our engagement through them to others. We often get good feelings when our social posts do well but we get bad feelings when our posts receive little attention, or worse, get negative attention. (You’ve probably heard stories or even experienced online bullying) Experts say that too much reliance on our devices for social connections can actually lead to a feeling of isolation and awkwardness in real social settings which can lead to mental health issues. Symptoms may include:
- Preoccupation with the Internet
- The need for more time online to achieve the same level of satisfaction
- Irritability or depression when Internet use is limited
- Lying about time spent online or justifying online time
- Insomnia, neck pain, backache, vision problems, hand/finger soreness
If you notice any problematic symptoms, you may want to adjust your technology usage or seek help from a counselor.