Technology can be a wonderful thing. So many aspects of our lives are powered by and improved by it, from medicine to driving – and it’s so ubiquitous we often don’t even notice it’s there. When was the last time you actually noticed how amazing the feat of engineering you hold in your hand all day is? However, the fact that we don’t notice technology also comes with a downside, and that is that we also turn a blind eye to the health risks they sometimes pose. There are numerous health implications from electronics, from the mental effects of too much screen time, through to the radiation emitted from our smart watches. Knowing what the risks are means you can be better informed to make decisions about how to manage the risks and to minimise the harmful effects.
Excessive Screen Time
Once the reserve of the office worker or embroiderer, eye strain is now commonplace in the general population. Staring at your phone or laptop all day causes strain to your eyes because of the light it produces. Constant screen use can also result in poor posture, because the user is constantly bent over to look at their screen. In terms of mental health, constant screen use can lead to isolation as it reduces engagement with the world around you, which can lead to higher susceptibility to depression and anxiety and can even cause developmental problems in children and young adults. Children especially are interacting with technology in a way not seen before, with many children knowing how to use a smartphone even before their first birthday and many children being gifted their own tablets when they’re very young. Just as it can be hard for us adults to manage and moderate our screen time, for children it’s even more challenging.
Excessive screen time is also associated with a reduction in the quality of your vision. The simple fact is screens are not something we’ve evolved to be used to, the light emitted from the screen not only influences our circadian rhythm, but also can impact our sight over the long term.
Social media is an amazing tool for keeping people connected, and it can be wonderful to have such an easy way to keep in the loop with what people you care about are up to even when they might be far away. However, too much time spent on social media has been shown to correlate with poor self-esteem, life satisfaction and body image particularly in people 35 and under for whom social media is a big part of their lives. Add into the mix that many smartphone apps such as Snapchat and Instagram now have filters on them, so you can easily edit photos of yourself to the point you’re almost unrecognisable. It’s a very confusing combination for young people, and there have been studies shown that likes on social media trigger some of the same areas of the brain as addictions do. This can make it harder to pull yourself away from it and to set boundaries that work for you. I find personally social media apps are something I can’t have on my phone, because when I do I just end up mindlessly scrolling without really thinking about it. It can be so much harder to set clear boundaries when you’re constantly distracted by something. I’ve found that removing notifications and even going as far to remove some of the apps has helped me cut down my social media time significantly. I’ve also noticed when I spend the least on social media, I feel the happiest about life.
One of the most concerning health risks of modern technology is the radiation emitted by smartwatches. As fitness tracking and working on the go become ever more popular, so do smartwatches – but unfortunately, they aren’t that good for you. The particular type of radiation, colloquially often referred to as Apple watch radiation, is called EMF radiation. EMF stands for electromagnetic field, and when using wearable tech like a smartwatch you are constantly exposed to these wireless waves of radiation. It’s long been advised to keep your smartphone away from your body when you can, as the radiation may be harmful – and similar caution should apply to what are essentially tiny smartphones, smartwatches. Some research has suggested that very prolonged, continuous exposure can cause radiation sickness-like symptoms such as headaches and nausea.
So, before you start techifying everything in your life, just make sure you’ve taken the risks into account first – and make sure you love yourself more than your tech! As with most things in life, it’s all about finding a balance that allows you to benefit from all this great tech, without making the risks to your own health too extreme. The addictive nature of technology, combined with the social media aspect, can make it even harder than before to limit how much we use it.