We may feel it is changing out lives for the better, but it appears modern technology is making us ill.
Over the years, we have seen some tremendous advances in the tech world. Mobile phones, tablets, smart watches and even virtual reality headgear have never ceased to amaze us.
It is so easy to stay connected. I remember in our childhood years that to speak to someone in another state you had to book a trunk call.
Now, you can chat with them face to face for free!
How many of you have woken up in the morning and checked your smart phone as soon as you do?
Newspaper reports have suggested that nearly 61% of us check our smart phones within the first 5 minutes of waking up in the morning. 88% of us check it within the first 30 minutes.
But while technology has made life a lot more convenient for us, it has also brought with it a number of health problems. These are not just limited to physical health problems, but emotional ones as well.
Here, I shall take a look at some of the problems with our health that modern technology is responsible for.
Health Problems With Modern Technology
For the purpose of simplicity, I shall start with physical health problems that are caused by tech.
1. Your Sleep Patterns Will Change
Have you ever found yourself staring at your phone in a dark room just before going to sleep?
Over a period of time, this can lead to altered sleep patterns, even insomnia.
Our normal sleep pattern is determined by the release of a chemical called melatonin. Just before we sleep, the quantity of melatonin increases. This helps us drift off into a sleep.
Smart gadgets have LED screens that emit blue light. This can alter to the concentration of melatonin, which in turn disrupts sleep patterns. Over a period of time, insomnia sets in.
Keeping a bright screen on in a dark room at bed time makes the mind think that it is still daytime.
But this is not the only problem with blue light.
Blue light also reduces rapid eye movement sleep cycles. Also called REM sleep, this part of our sleep helps us retain memories and increases concentration.
In other words, it leads to reduced brain efficiency as time passes.
Keeping your phone by your bedside at night sends a message to your subconscious that you are expecting a call or text message. If you do get a message, fight the urge to check it immediately.
It is now advised that you switch off your phone at least an hour before you go to bed. This way, you could allow yourself to fall into a deep sleep.
2. Vision May Get Affected
Constantly staring at a computer screen can lead to a condition called computer vision syndrome.
This is a condition that is marked by dry eyes, pain around the eye balls, fatigue and double vision.
Keeping your phone close to your eyes can also lead to excessive penetration of blue light into the eyes. This can damage the retina over a period of time.
The same problem can occur in children. Watching cartoons or nursery rhymes on the phone at a close proximity can lead to changes in vision and requirement for glasses at a very young age.
If your job involves staring at a screen for long hours, then follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This rule, issued by the Mayo clinic, can help protect your eyes from excessive strain.
3. Poor Brain Development In Children
Modern technology is addictive. Those who have become parents recently will know how addicted their child is to the mobile phone or tablet.
Gone are the days where children waited to go outside and play with their friends. They would rather sit inside and play with their video games.
There has been much publicity over the use of mobile phones by children. Recently, there was a case where a 9 year old cut his forearm with a knife after he was denied his phone.
There are numerous studies that have looked at the development of cognitive function in children and adolescents using mobile technology.
A number of studies are now underway that are looking into whether a child’s brain development is affected by the constant use of mobile phones.
One could argue that they could access knowledge and information through their phone. Isn’t this what adults are doing these days?
Of course, it is more likely that they would be on social media, or watching a ‘viral’ video on YouTube.
Mobile phones are believed to emit microwave radiation, also called MWR. Multiple studies have shown that the brains of children and even that of fetuses absorb more MWR than adults.
This is because the skulls of children are a lot softer and permeable to radiation. One study found that the degree of MWR penetration in a child’s skull is twice as more as adults.
Not just that, the penetration of MWR into the bone marrow of children may be as much as 10 times that of adults.
There is some disputed evidence that mobile phone use from a young age leads to brain cancer. Studies are still ongoing.
Modern technology can make you a couch potato. And that’s not good for your health.
These days, even ordering groceries has become so simple, that you do not need to get up and face traffic just to get your weekly shopping supplies.
Just click on your app, a few click later your delivery is on it’s way.
Games on your phone or tablet can become quite addicting. You probably would want to finish the game instead of going for your evening walk.
Sitting for hours on end in front of a screen leads to unnecessary snacking on junk foods like crisps and savory foods. These are high in calories and salt, and lead to increase in body weight.
Modern tech also means children nowadays sleep a lot later than normal. Poor sleep patterns and lack of sufficient sleep have been linked to obesity in children.
Some studies have shown that if you do not sleep enough, you tend to snack on unhealthy foods a lot more. In fact, you could consume more than 300 extra calories a day (this would take you a brisk 1 hour walk to burn off).
This is because the lack of sleep increases the production of a hormone called ghrelin. This hormone is responsible for telling the brain you are hungry.
Make sure you shut off your devices an hour or so before you retire to bed at night.
Keep phone use limited for your kids. Instead, encourage them to spend an hour outside with their friends or playing some sort of sport.
5. Increased Risk Of Injuries, Aches And Pains
Have you heard of WhatsAppitis?
In 2014, the Lancet, a reputed medical journal, described the first case of WhatsAppitis in a doctor. The doctor was returning Christmas wishes to friends and family that had messaged her on the day of her medical shift.
She spent a total of 6 hours texting them back on WhatsApp, and ended up with severe inflammation of her thumbs and pains in both of her wrists.
Aches and pains from modern tech is not really breaking news. A few years ago, ergonomic keyboards were introduced on the market to reduce strain and injury to the joints.
People bought them in bulk. Later however they were withdrawn as they started causing more trouble than the regular keyboards.
People who spend long hours typing on their computers can develop wrist pain. This is called repetitive strain injury, or RSI. It is a well recognised condition.
Many of my readers have asked me how I type out long articles.
Well, I don’t.
I use a dictation software that helps just sit back and dictate what I want to be typed. It takes away the strain of typing all the time. (You can check out this software here).
Back pain, neck pains and aches and pains all over are common in people who spend hours in front of a computer. This is because there is limited movement of the joints and the muscles in the body become stiff.
Finally, sitting in front of a long computer screen for long hours is being considered a risk for developing heart disease.
Make sure you have a set exercise program to keep your joints healthy and your muscle strong.
6. Ringing In The Ears And Hearing Loss
I often see people walking around with earphones in their ears that are jacked up to their mobile phone.
Seems like they are listening to their favourite tunes.
But many do not understand that listening to music like this can lead to a ringing sensation in the ears as time passes.
This ringing sensation is called tinnitus. It is one of the ill effects of modern technology.
According to the website Action On Hearing Loss, long exposure to sounds over 80 decibels can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus.
If you do wish to listen to music, limit using headphones to less than 5 hours a week.
When raising the volume, do not cross more than 80% of the maximum volume of the device.
If you work in a noisy environment, purchase some good quality noise canceling headphones. There is a wide selection of them available online here.
I am sure there is no end to the health effects that modern technology has. However, we must embrace it but at the same time take the right precautions in ensuring we take care of our health.