Countless technological advances have made our lives easier, happier, and healthier, but when does it go too far? While many of us balance our use of devices for both work and play, plenty of children spend an exorbitant amount of time entertaining themselves in front of their screens without any balance with the outside world. Even though some screen time is perfectly fine, getting into a habit of constantly staring at a screen can have lasting physical and mental side effects. One of the best ways to avoid the negative lifelong side effects of constant device use is to start the habit of a balanced life at an early age.
Despite being a sedentary activity, continuous use of technologic devices can have harmful effects on your physical health. Over time, you can develop “text neck,” or spine issues from looking down unnaturally and too frequently at your phone. In addition, it is common to develop carpal tunnel, tendinitis, or “text hands” when typing or texting too often. Any repetitive motion can cause muscle tension or spasms in your arms or wrists. A more active lifestyle allows you to maintain a better posture, instead of hunching over a desktop or curled up on the couch.
Moreover, people often associate tech addiction with little or no physical activity. The more time spend on a digital device, the less time you spend moving your body, resulting in far less physical activity than what is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, it is easy to mindlessly eat while you are engrossed in a video game, scrolling on your computer, or watching television. Having a balance that limits your and your child’s screen time prevents the chances of developing unhealthy weight gain, obesity, and other health issues.
A less overt consequence of tech addiction is the side effects of radiation exposure. Studies show various medical issues are linked with radiation exposure which occurs when exposed to cell phones, computers, WiFi and more. These health consequences can manifest in a variety of medical issues, including migraines, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, and aggravation of existing health conditions. If started at a young age, radiation exposure can contribute to a wide range of medical issues that will have lifelong consequences. It is best to encourage to your children to avoid constant contact with devices, even avoid being in close proximity to them as much as possible.
Furthermore, children and adults alike can experience mental side effects from tech addiction, such as irregular sleep cycles, stress, and overstimulation. For example, blue lights from televisions, computers, and phones can have an adverse impact on sleep cycles. The glow of the light will disrupt natural sleep patterns, making it more difficult to get a proper night's sleep. It is recommended that all blue lights be turned off at least an hour before going to bed. This means you may need to set curfews on television, computer, and cell phone use before bed. Additionally, over-stimulating your mind with technology is changing how our brains work. Because digital devices provides us with instant entertainment, it leads to a feeling of addiction when we are not constantly receiving new information. We also have a shortened attention span, which can interfere with school, work, and personal relationships.
Stepping away from your digital devices can do wonders on stress levels, instantly and over time. This is because we need time to process all the stimuli that life throws at us. Children and adults alike should spend time in nature for meditation or reflection upon their lives and choices, which help their brains release stress. Many of us don’t take the time to decompress and allow our brain some time to process everything life throws at us now that we are tied to our digital devices. This can manifest in many ways, including emotional and physical illness. Starting this attachment to technology at an early age can result in unhealthy build-ups of stress and anxiety with no healthy outlet.
Lastly, one of the greatest parts of putting down your phone and shutting off your TV is spending time with the people you love. Because a major part of communication is expressed through body language, children that grow up in front of a screen will potentially lack the social/communication skills that involve face-to-face interaction with others. Children especially are not developing the same ways to communicate when they are not interacting face-to-face.
As a general rule of thumb, it is important to balance your screen time and your family’s screen time with interaction with the outside world. Even though incorporating technology in your routine has become a normal part of our daily lives, being able to unplug will do wonders for your health and overall mood. Getting outside or interacting face-to-face with friends and family will promote healthier habits that will translate into other aspects of your healthier lifestyle. I encourage you to start these habits of balancing on- and off-screen time to promote healthy development and positive wellness choices.