Smartphones and Why They are Harmful

By: Grayson R

Texting spine

The numerous hours of kids and teens peering down at their phones isn’t just a nuisance but potentially dangerous too. As smartphones are getting more and more of a necessity in our life, we are becoming more vulnerable to health hazards involved with smartphones.

According to the British Chiropractic Association, our obsession with smartphones has led to a rise in the number of young people with back problems, as the amount of time spent leaning over small phone screens can put spinal discs under pressure. Thanks to our technological lifestyle, 45 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds suffer from back pain, a 20 per cent rise from last year. And aching backs aren’t the only unhealthy consequences of your mobile device. Here’s why smartphones are bad for your physical, mental and emotional health.

If you’re looking at your phone then you’re more likely to walk into a lamppost, trip over your feet or have a more serious accident. Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that drivers who are listening to someone talk on their mobile have 37 per cent reduced brain activity. Meanwhile, a University of Washington study found that texting pedestrians were four times more likely to ignore the lights or forget to look for traffic before crossing.

Instead of making us more connected, the potential for incessant smartphone communication can make us feel more isolated. Young people, who spend 11 hours looking at their screens every day, expect constant updates from their friends, and a lull in messages can lead to anxiety. “There’s the terrible feeling that the person is ignoring you,” says Dr Richard Graham, a psychologist specialising in technology addiction at Nightingale hospital. “Young people have to manage feeling excluded by people that are very important to them.”

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Jonathan Dearing, spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, says that the technology revolution has led to reduced physical activity and obesity, which is the fourth biggest cause of death worldwide. “If someone is on the floor above you at work, rather than going to see them you would send an email. And you would phone up a friend rather than travelling to meet them,” he says. “Inactivity leads to obesity, and it means risk of cardiovascular disease is greatly increased. Pretty much every disease, like breast cancer, prostate cancer or bowel cancer, you are both more likely to get it and less likely to recover from it if you are inactive.”

More than 60 per cent of 18- to 29-year-old smartphone users take their phones to bed, but studies have found that just two hours exposure to brightly lit screens can suppress melatonin and lead to sleeping troubles. And Professor Kevin Morgan, Director of the Clinical Sleep Research Unit at Loughborough University, says that late-night intellectual stimulation from our phones makes it more difficult to relax. “Why are you looking at a screen before you go to bed? It could be because you are working. Or a child might be playing an exciting game,” he says. “Looking at screens engages you in intellectual activity in a way that is not at all like reading a book. It puts you in a state of alertness which is the last thing you want to be before going to bed.”

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