If you have children at home you may have experienced the momentary bliss it is to hand your children a smartphone or a tablet to keep them entertained while you focus on your work. But let’s be real, the amount of screen-time your children are being exposed to on a regular basis is unhealthy.
Smartphones have changed the way we live and the way we think. We enjoy the liberty of being connected to the world wherever we go, jot in a simple Google search and you’ll get all the basic information you need.
Where the benefits are plentiful, so are the drawbacks to frequent and prolonged use of smartphones. As technology is improving, our health is deteriorating and so one has to ask, why is this happening? Let’s look into some of the ways smartphones are affecting our bodies and brains.
1.Your Smartphones Are Keeping You Up At Night
Your smartphone screen emit ‘blue light’ which acts like daylight which can confuse your internal circadian cycles, cycles that regulate sleep patterns. When your eyes are exposed to blue light in the late evening or at night, it sends a message to the brain that it’s daytime and your brain tends to keep you awake.
Basically, blue light disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for promoting sleep. A study showed how children under the age of three who watched TV experienced irregular sleep patterns. And this doesn’t just happen to children; adults (yes, you and don’t deny it) have a habit of taking their smartphones to bed and will spend from minutes to hours scrolling through their Facebook feed. The culprit behind your sleepless nights isn’t just the addictive social media; it’s the blue light your smartphone screen is feeding your brain.
2. Promotion of Sedentary Behavior Leading to Weight Gain
Smartphones are wonderful,aren’t they?Your favorite movies, games, and social media apps, all in one.A few clicks is all it takes. This liberty has actually affected our habits.It has worsened our sedentary behavior making us lethargic due to lack of physical activity, and this is becoming a major cause of increased weight gain or obesity.
Children at a young age are inclined towards jumping around, and this is actually beneficial as it strengthens their lungs, hearts and muscles. This is why children who use smartphones or any form of screen media generally have decreased activity which has long-term effects.
3.They Cause Eye Discomfort.
Stay glued to your smartphone screen for prolonged periods of time and you’ll notice eye discomfort. Both adults and children can experience it but children are more susceptible to developing symptoms of ‘digital eye strain’. These symptoms include pain, fatigue, blurred vision, dry eyes and headaches. This is why it is necessary to keep your screens at a safe distance and adjust your screen brightness accordingly.
4.They Can Affect Body Posture
Yes, screens can put unnecessary strain on your eyes but it can also generate harmful strain on our back and necks. Prolonged use can cause changes in neck proprioception(a joint which senses and controls balance and posture. This can be worsened by sedentary lifestyles. So make sure your head isn’t too tilted when you’re busy scrolling through your news feed for hours, bring your screen to a higher position and avoid continuous strain on your neck.
5.They Affect Your Social Skills
It’s quite simple, the more time we’re contributing to staring at our smartphones the lesser time we use to interact with people face to face. A UCLA study showed that overuse of mobile devices among 6th graders had diminished their ability to read human emotions. In some cases, it may be healthy to connect to people online but there is always a higher chance of people shutting themselves in. Not to mention the emergence of cyber-bullying which is detrimental to the mental well-being of children.
6.They Affect Brain Structure and Function
Multiple studies have shown that prolonged screen time damages the brain by causing grey mass atrophy (shrinkage, loss in tissue volume in grey areas where processing occurs), compromising white matter integrity and reducing cortical thickness. Most of this damage occurs in the frontal lobe of the brain which is a rapidly developing part of the brain from early teen years to mid-twenties. This is why children who show continuous usage of smartphones have a higher chance of suffering damage to their developing brains. Another study showed how smartphone addiction creates chemical imbalance in the brain. Smartphone and internet addiction can increase the levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter) which acts as an ‘inhibitor’.
7.Smartphones Decrease Your Memory
Smartphones practically do everything for us. They store your contacts, your memories, your schedules. And this is why we have become too dependent on them. We’ve become too dependent on technology to remember things for us and at one point we stopped bothering to remember things ourselves at all. This is why we’ve landed ourselves with weakened memories.