We are spending more and more time glued to our screens, misusing and abusing of our technological devices. It is established that this intensive use has negative effects on our health. Below is a list of the consequences of the increasingly widespread use of new technologies on body and mind, and tips on how to avoid them.
- Harming the spine and posture
A major risk associated with laptops is back pain, caused by a bad posture. It is not uncommon to find yourself, without paying attention, completely curled up over a laptop (especially since the screen is not readable in all lighting conditions) or sprawled on a sofa. A recent study has also shown that spending time on your phone can lead to back problems. The study showed that tilting your head 60 degrees forward to look at your phone amounted to almost 30 kilograms of pressure on your neck muscles.
Doctors are noting an increase in cases of what they call “erythema ab igne”, a dermatitis caused by the heat released by the computer. People who frequently work with their laptop on their knees or thighs can, following the contact of the machine with the skin and the heat that the PC gives emit, eventually suffer from skin irritation with itching and permanent coloring of the skin.
The science magazine, Pediatrics denounced this risk, based in particular on a clinical case.
According to the article in Pediatrics, the temperature of a laptop can be around 50 ° C. Under the effect of heat, the blood capillaries in the skin dilate. This is what results in a pronounced redness of the skin with mottling. At a later stage, the skin is colored to turn brown due to excessive production of pigments.
- Damaging your eyes
Staring at a screen for too long tires the eyes, causes blurred vision and even dry eyes.
The first factor is the size of the screen. The risk is then to bring our gaze closer to the smartphone/laptop, and not to respect the recommended safety distance (at least 50 centimeters from the screen). Likewise, on smaller formats, the character sizes and their differences depending on the applications used undermine our view.
Blue light is notably known as one of the risk factors for degeneration of retinal cells. Emitted by cold white LEDs present in digital tools: our computers, tablets, televisions and smartphones. By sticking too much in front of our digital toys, we run the risk of being exposed to proven visual disturbances, at least, of being subject to avoidable visual fatigue.
Focusing on a bright screen can also lead to spasms in the temples.
- Risks of male infertility
In 2014, researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom looked at a dozen studies evaluating the quality of sperm against electromagnetic waves. The results showed that our cellphones could reduce the quantity of sperm and that the mobile / genital area proximity would be a source of reproducibility problems, caused by the electromagnetic activity of the mobile but also, the heat which it diffuses.
Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook also conducted a study to assess the effects of heat given off by laptops on scrotal temperature.
They studied the scrotal temperature of 29 healthy volunteers over two 60-minute sessions. In one of the sessions, participants used a laptop computer in their lap. In the other session, participants were seated in the same position, thighs tight, but without a laptop. The temperature rise was significantly greater while using the computer than during the session without a computer.
Studies have shown significant but reversible changes after short-term warming. However, laptops produce a significant repetitive transient scrotal hyperthermia over several years, and insufficient recovery time between heat exposures can cause irreversible or partially reversible changes in male reproductive function.
- Sleep disturbances
Studies show that excessive use of technology – especially right before going to bed – can have a negative effect on sleep schedule.
First, the stimulation caused by the technology prevents the brain from going into rest mode. In addition, the light emitted by the screens reduces the production of melatonin by the brain, a hormone that plays a key role in triggering sleep. Finally, the use of technology often delays the timing of sleep and disrupts your sleep schedule.
- Loneliness and depression
Another question that is the subject of scientific work today is that of the dangers of social on our mental health. Specialists believe that this paradox is a very real phenomenon, social media is meant to put people closer, but it’s now strongly associated with feelings of loneliness, and decreased satisfaction and well-being, which is hardly reassuring.
- Concentration troubles
According to a new American study conducted in Texas, simply keeping your smartphone nearby reduces the ability to perform complex tasks, even when the device is turned off.
The results suggest that the mere presence of a smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impedes cognitive functioning, even though people think they are giving their full attention to the task at hand. We do not consciously think of the smartphone but this process of refraining from thinking about something relies on cognitive resources which are limited, and it exhausts the brain.
Thus, the use of the cell phone while driving is attributed to many road accidents. The ringing tone which can surprise or put in stress, message notifications changes the behavior and the ability to react of the driver. It also appears that when driving, people tend to focus on the front of the road, and pays less attention to signage and other road users.
- Dependency and addiction?
Mobile addiction (Nomophobia) is defined as a state of craving that occurs when a person does not have access to their cell phone. According to a 2012 study, 66% of subjects surveyed feel completely helpless without their mobile.
Researchers at the University of Worcester in the UK have confirmed the negative effects in this particular area for cellphone “junkies”. The nomophobes (no-mobile-phobes), are more female (71%) than male (61%) and identify with certain behaviors considered excessive in the relationship they have with their phone.
- The sedentary lifestyle risks
The correlation is strongly evident between prolonged phone, laptop and WIFI use and a more sedentary lifestyle. Technology is making us move less, and this enormously affects our health.
Mainly, being inactive leads to snacking, and therefore weight gain, even obesity. No physical activity is also the cause of many diseases, such as diabetes and cancers.
- Pain in thumbs, wrists or elbows
Repetitive motion injuries are becoming very common in people who write a lot of texts (pain in the thumbs) or who spend the day writing on a keyboard (pain in the wrists, elbows or shoulders).
- Internet or online gaming addiction
Many teenagers started having this abnormal behavior. They’re declared “dependent”, since their use of the internet and online games is so important that it has an impact on their daily life and eliminates thri activities. Such addiction is rare, but requires treatment by a healthcare professional, as it likely underlies other problems such as low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety.
Having access to thousands if not millions of pages of medical information (not always professionally written) can quickly get you into a spiral. Finding answers about your health online instead of seeing a doctor is becoming increasingly important and more and more people are looking for a medical diagnosis on the web and think they have serious illnesses. This is called Cybercondria, the propensity to think that any symptom cannot be mild, but is surely a sign of serious illness.
A new study conducted at Baylor University (United States) demonstrated the extent to which the intolerance of uncertainty (propensity to believe that an event negative can produce, despite its low probability) contributes to cybercondria.
- To prevent many of these troubles, some precautionary measures should be taken:
- Relevant and moderate use of screens. Rest your eyes regularly using the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes or so, move your gaze to an object that is at least 20 feet (7m) away for at least 20 seconds.
- Make sure the room where you are is properly lit and that the lighting is not causing reflections on the screen.
- Make sure the screen is in a position that allows you to have a natural head, shoulder and neck position (at eye level).
- If the dry eye is bothersome, you can use eye-drops. Consult your pharmacist to find out which ones are right for you.
- If you wear corrective lenses, have your eyes checked regularly to make sure your eyesight has not changed. Poorly fitting glasses are an often overlooked source of headaches.
- Leave technology outside the bedroom (including the TV).
- Establish a bedtime routine: at least one hour before bedtime, stop all stimulating activities, and do activities conducive to sleep such as taking a hot bath or shower, reading or listening to quiet music.
- If you can’t sleep, do not lie down for more than 20 minutes, but sit in the dark, waiting for signs of falling asleep.
- Poor posture is often the trigger for pain. When the problem is with the use of a computer, make sure that the office items (chair, keyboard, screen) are ergonomically placed to avoid prolonged strain on your muscles and tendons.
- To prevent “hurting thumbs”, if you don’t stop texting completely, your best bet is to slow down by writing more slowly and try to vary the fingers used for texting.
- Scientists advise against placing the laptop immediately on your knees and certainly on the skin, but always placing it on a blanket or “cushion trays” available on the market and specially designed for this purpose.