Can you imagine living without your smartphone? Exactly. Today, you have to have a smartphone to function in society, it’s not even an option.
The first smartphone was created in 1992 by IBM and was called the Simon Personal Communicator, more than 15 years before Apple released the iPhone. In less than 30 years, it has become an indispensable part of our lives. We need it to stay in touch with family and friends, work, have appointments, help us find our way around and even tell us if we’ve had enough exercise.
Okay, they are great and can also be an asset in a life or death situation. But do we talk enough about their drawbacks? First of all, we don’t yet know the impact that smartphones can have on our health because we don’t have enough data. Also, smartphones can have a negative impact on our mental health and contribute to sleep problems and depression. We think it’s important to inform you of these drawbacks, a little awareness can’t hurt, right? We hope this helps you turn off your phone every once in a while.
Exposure To Radiations
There are different types of radiation and we classify them according to the amount of energy they carry. Ionizing radiation carries a lot of energy and excessive exposure can damage our cells and DNA, causing burns, disease or cancer. Non-ionizing radiation can cause heating – that’s how microwaves work. The radiation emitted by smartphones falls into this category. However, their power is less than two watts, which causes only minimal heating, but not enough energy to damage our cells.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that smartphones may have some risk associated with cancer, but the evidence is not strong enough to be considered causal and needs further research. If you are concerned about RF exposure, you can limit your exposure, by using non-Bluetooth headphones or using airplane mode at night.
It’s important to keep in mind that smartphones are still relatively new to the story and more studies are underway to try to confirm suspicions. So far, scientists have reported adverse health effects from their use, including changes in brain activity, reaction times and sleep patterns.
Impact On Cognitive Abilities
While smartphones are very convenient, they don’t really make us smarter. They are increasingly capable of thinking for us; with the ability to be used as appointment calendars, web portals, calculators, GPS, gaming devices, newspapers, and more, smartphones seem capable of performing an almost limitless range of cognitive activities for us, which basically makes us lazier. When was the last time you tried to read a map?
In addition, experts suggest that phone use can impact children’s social and emotional development. While young children have a lot of fun with smartphones and tablets and it may be tempting to use these devices to entertain them, it may not be a good idea. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine studied the effect of smartphone and iPad use in very young children and said they have a detrimental effect on their social and emotional development. They become especially problematic when they replace hands-on activities that help develop visual-motor and sensorimotor skills. Many questions remain unanswered about the influence of these devices on child development, and researchers still wonder how they might interfere with problem-solving skills best acquired through unstructured play and interaction with other children.
These are still preliminary studies, as we are still in the early stages of understanding the potential short and long-term effects of smartphone use on the brain. It is important to note that while mobile devices certainly have their drawbacks, the researchers suggest that we have not yet fully understood how they may also be beneficial to the brain.
It Can Affect Our Sleep Cycles
Scientists have established that light from phone, tablet or computer screens impacts our ability to fall asleep. Many people have trouble putting their phones down before bed, which is a problem because several studies have found that using LCD screens, especially near your face, can disrupt your natural sleep cycle. The blue light they emit disrupts the production of melatonin in our bodies, the hormone that induces sleep. Our eyes are used to absorbing blue sunlight during the day, so when we get it at night, our brains think it’s still daylight and we wake up the next morning feeling groggy and not fresh.
Can’t get off your phone before bed? There are now “night modes” that you can set on your phone. So when the sun goes down, so does the blue light. Apple’s iOS system offers Night Shift, which lets you reduce the amount of blue light you see at certain times of the day. Android offers Night Mode and Amazon Blue Shade for its Fire tablets.
The human eye is an incredible organ, capable of a wide variety of tasks. Unfortunately, smartphone culture drastically reduces the amount of distance focusing we do, preferring to fix our gaze a few inches from our face and keep it there. Experts believe that prolonged screen use can be very detrimental to eye health, but they don’t yet know how bad. Laboratory experiments show that prolonged exposure to HEV light (such as that emitted by LCD screens) damages retinal tissue, and the closer the screen, the more of this radiation is absorbed.
In addition, staring at a screen for long periods of time dries out our eyes and we produce fewer natural tears than we should. Juggling computers and phones, most people stare at a screen all day and don’t blink enough. Not blinking as often as we should can lead to excessive eye strain, headaches, fatigue and vision problems. Try to limit the amount of time you spend on these devices each day, and if you can’t do that because of your job, it’s essential to schedule frequent breaks.
Wondering why you suffer from back or neck pain? The human head is a heavy object, and our neck and spine are designed to hold it at a certain angle. Clients are now visiting chiropractors complaining of intense muscle pain in the neck and shoulders caused by recurrent screen use. So much so that Dr. Dean L. Fishman, an American chiropractor, has coined a name for this condition: Text Neck Syndrome.
And that’s not all. The pressure on your neck affects your posture in the long run. Poor posture habits can lead to chronic back and neck pain. They can also lead to health problems such as arthritis, fatigue, poor circulation, headaches, and even compromise your ability to breathe properly. For example, you can place your device at eye level by investing in a laptop stand. Yoga is also a great way to adjust your posture, as many of the postures help strengthen and stretch the shoulders, chest and back, which are the main areas affected by spending all day in front of a screen. Practicing these postures on a regular basis should help alleviate the pain associated with poor posture due to screen time.
It Carries Bacteria
A study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine determined that one in six smartphones in England is contaminated with fecal matter, and 16 percent of them carry E. Coli bacteria. Washing your hands regularly helps alleviate this problem, but your phone is still a reservoir of germs.
Why are our phones so dirty? Well, because if you wash your hands regularly, you’re also constantly using them, touching everything from doorknobs to sink faucets. Research shows that 95% of people don’t wash their hands properly and you touch what they touch, accumulating huge amounts of germs without even realizing it. Secondly, we carry our phones around with us and check them about once every 12 minutes, spreading germs on our hands. Also, our phones generate heat and hot environments are where bacteria thrive. We only add heat by holding the device in our hands.
So we urge you to wash your cell phone weekly, don’t use it while eating and don’t take it to the bathroom. To clean your device safely, it is best to wipe it with a microfiber cloth. Antibacterial wipes or regular disinfectants are not recommended as they are abrasive and can damage your device, but you can lightly spray a little disinfectant on the cloth to disinfect your phone.
It Impacts Our Mental Health
The impact of smartphones on mental health is not yet fully understood, but it seems that too much screen time can lead to depression and anxiety. The main reason would be that we can actually become addicted to screen time. So how do you know if someone is addicted? The red flag is when a person uses their cell phone most of the time, is unable to cut down on their use, uses it as a solution to boredom, or feels anxious or depressed when their phone is out of reach (US National Library of Medicine).
We can also feel anxious or depressed because of social media platforms. They can be a great tool, for example we love them for cooking recipes, but unfortunately they are not always good for our self-esteem. In fact, many people tend to compare themselves to others on social media platforms, which can lead to really negative thoughts, as we may feel that “our life could be so much better if”. Also, body image is overexposed online today and young women and teens sometimes get depressed comparing their body shape to others, which can lead to poor eating behaviors. Comparing yourself to others is really unhealthy, so don’t put too much emphasis on other people’s feed, okay? You’ll get more satisfaction from chatting with your friends or watching a good movie than scrolling through Instagram.
Smartphone use has only been widespread for 15 years, and researchers are still conducting studies to fully understand their impact on our physical and mental health.
In this article, we decided to raise awareness of the negative aspects of smartphones, however it is also important to remember the positive role they can have in our lives. Whether it’s mindfulness apps, health trackers, tracking the treatment of diseases such as diabetes, or apps that help us keep track of our medications, it seems reasonable to think that smartphones also play a vital role in improving our health.
Like anything, smartphones can be a real asset in our lives, as long as we don’t abuse them. So be sure to limit your screen time, set up a night mode, and put your phone away when you meet your friends so you can really connect with them. And most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others! You are awesome, so focus your energy on loving yourself.