5 Ways Your Favorite Devices Are Harming Your Health

You head to the office first thing in the morning and stare at a computer screen for eight hours. Then, once you’re home, you’re constantly checking your smartphone, logging onto your personal laptop, or lounging in front of the TV. If this sounds familiar, your devices could be harming your health in more ways than you realize. Even if you’re always hitting the gym after work done, it’s tough to undo all of the damage that sitting still and staring at a computer screen or your smartphone can do to your mind and body. Here are the top five ways your favorite devices may be doing serious damage to your health.

1. You’re damaging your brain

Children play video games on smartphones

Smartphones and other technological devices can really damage your brain. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The most complex organ in your body is your brain, and the last thing you’d want to do is damage your ability to process information. Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D., writes in a piece for Psychology Today that spending more than seven hours in front of a screen per day has a profound effect on the brain, and they’re not good. While she’s observed these effects in children more so than adults, she reported studies have found screen time can cause a loss of tissue in the gray matter areas of the brain, which is where basic processing occurs.

The most troubling find, though, was the area of the brain known as the insula was also affected, and this controls your ability to empathize and show compassion. This could even lead to more violent behavior, particularly for those who are under the age of 18 and have not yet fully developed. Whether you’re old or young, it’s important to let your brain take a rest from your favorite devices.

2. You’re straining your eyes

Looking at a tablet for too long can result in eye strain

Looking at a tablet for too long can result in eye strain. | iStock.com

It’s easy to fall into the trap of staring at your smartphone every time it buzzes to life with a text or chimes at you with a new email, but if you’re like so many others who check their smartphone constantly throughout the day, you could be severely hurting your eyes. Digital eyestrain is a real threat to anyone who stares at a screen for hours at a time, and symptoms include dryness, irritation, blurred vision, and even headaches, says The Vision Council.

If you want to save your vision, then you’ll have to make a conscious effort every time you dare to look at your phone or computer screen. If your job requires you to look at a screen all day long, then you may want to invest in a pair of computer glasses, which are designed to optimize your vision when you’re looking at a screen. Depending on the filter or lens that works best for you, computer glasses can better focus the screen images and reduce vision blurriness. If you aren’t looking to invest in these, then remember to blink frequently, adjust your screen brightness, take breaks often, and minimize the glare on your screen.

3. You’re hurting your back

A participant sits with a laptop computer at a hacker conference - Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Hunching over your computer all day can really hurt your back. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If you’ve noticed back pain after staring at your smartphone or computer for an extended period of time, you’re on to something. Medical Daily reports young adults between the ages of 18 tand 24 are reporting lower back problems associated with “text neck” or staring at a screen hunched over for too long. The story shares surveys indicating people spend as much time looking down at a tablet, computer, or smartphone as they do sleeping.

If you haven’t been paying attention to your posture while you’ve been checking your phone, you could be unknowingly slumping and hunching for hours on end, causing serious strain. The best way to combat this health issue is to constantly check yourself — be aware of how you’re sitting while at your computer and when using an handheld device. Hold your device a little higher, too, to avoid neck strain.

4. You’re losing sleep

Using your favorite device before you go to bed can hinder your sleep

Using your favorite device before you go to bed can hinder your sleep. | iStock.com

If you find your quality of sleep is lacking, your devices could be to blame. The cause of this is simple — artificial light. The glow of your smartphone or tablet is one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation. The problem with the light on your phone is that it’s bright blue light, and it convinces our brains and, therefore, time to get out of bed, says Business Insider. If you find yourself unable to sleep after watching TV or checking your phone, then do yourself a favor, and get back on track. Wake up at a normal time, eat at regular meal times, and of course, turn off that blue light before you’re anywhere near your bed.

5. You’re “nomophobic”

Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

If you panic when you leave your smartphone at home, this could be harming your health. | Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

You’re ready to leave the house for work, and it dawns on you — your phone is nowhere to be found. You pat your pockets in a frenzy, check your bag, run around the house like there’s a fire, and end up wanting to pull your hair out until you find your phone. If you’ve ever been in this situation where you’ve felt paralyzed without your phone, then you could be “nomophobic,” having feelings of anxiety or intense distress when you’re without your phone.

Scientific American explains nomophobia comes in two parts. First, you’re so dependent on your phone you can’t go anywhere without it, and two, you’re too dependent on it to help conquer basic tasks like daily organization, easy navigation, and simple communication with others. If you find yourself pulling out your phone for every miniscule question that’s ever crossed your mind, you could be way too dependent on your device. Knowing that your phone is always handy to provide you with answers can also lead to decreased information retention and memory problems. Try leaving the house without your phone every once in a while — it’s better for your health than you think.