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Friend or Foe: How Overuse of Screens Affects Our Health

Updated: Jan 20

I am not sure we can imagine our lives without our digital devices. We tend to do so many things on them and we tend to rely on them more, and more as the years go by.

They help us to do our work faster, more efficiently and achieve our personal goals. Personal gadgets keep us informed. They encourage us to stay in touch with the loved ones. They help us to be content with life when we are in a bad mood and keep us company when we are alone. And they watch over and store our memories. They also made paper and metal money obsolete.

I would go as far as to suggest that digital devices have become almost part of our families.

A digital sketch of the whole family using digital screens at the same time

But with this sort of attachment and reliance on the technology, we sometimes spend way too much time using them - smartphones in particular - as they are always with us.

' Mobile web traffic accounts for 52.6 percent of global web traffic.' - Oberlo website.

And even though smartphones help us to be more efficient, organised and productive, they can also affect our health and wellbeing if their use is not moderated.

Also, unlimited use of smartphones cannot be beneficial for our eyes. We keep on staring at screens, which in itself sound unhealthy, but then we add blue light and forgetting to blink - it adds a lot of strain on our vision.

Then our hands and wrists become noticeably achy after a few hours of scrolling. And the addictiveness of infinite scrolling and the constant pinging of notification affects our mental health more than we are ready to admit.

So when your best friend starts turning into a foe, the benefits of technological advances stop being so shiny and alluring.

>>>> Related Article: if you only have 2 minutes to spare, check out this article on Medium: "Protect Your Eyes and Wrists from Your Phone."

A photo of eye checking alphabet

Screen Overuse Affects our Eyes and Wrists

Did you know that mobile device overuse increases the risk of short-sightedness? Because we tend to hold our devices very close to our eyes and forget to blink.

"Playing with handheld devices constitutes near work, which has been shown to be associated with myopia (commonly known as short-sightedness)," says Dr Tay. More often than not, this is due to reduced blinking. When we are concentrating on something, we forget to blink.

Other studies suggest that blue light emitted by our phones has "a potential to lead to macular degeneration".

It does not sound positive, does it? But those studies represent a percentage of people that become affected. We need to make sure we take certain precautions to make sure we don't become part of the statistics used in the studies above...

A few tips from the websites referenced:

  • Sit up a bit straighter.

  • Blink more often.

  • Practice focusing your eyes on varied distances.

And when it comes to our hands, according to Roger Powell, M.D. smartphone overuse could cause 'different types of Repetitive Strain Injury.' This is due to the repetitive nature of smartphone use (scrolling, holding in an open hand, typing).

But how do you avoid repetitive strain injury as there are days when we tend to scroll and text a bit too much. NHS suggests the following:

  • Keep good posture while sitting at your desk.

  • Remember to taking regular breaks.

  • You keyboard shortcuts and predictive text.

  • Do not keep elbows in the air for an extended period of time.

Screen Overuse Affects our Mental Health

There are numerous studies conducted on the effects of technology on our mental health.

One of the immediate dangers of phone overuse is information overload. In our modern society where all sort of information is so readily available, it's very easy to feel lost and overwhelmed at the sheer volume of it all. According to TechJury:

66% of smartphone users are addicted to their phones.

Studies have found that excessive use of smartphones by people with addictive-style behaviours can lead to depression and anxiety.

However, it also has a positive impact if you are using phone to escape boredom, while commuting, for example.

So just with like everything else in life - everything is good in moderation.

Pinterest Pin, tea cup and a hand holding a phone

Personal reflection

I also realised that my phone is my working tool - hence I need to plan when I use it, just like when I plan when to use Canva, or Google Analytics.

It might be an idea to hide and disable individual tabs when I am not working so I could potentially use my phone for leisure to chat with friends or research the recipe or something.

But at the moment, every time I open my phone to check a text message, I get drawn into the world of Pinterest impressions just like Alice got sucked into the Wonderland. I start falling into that vortex of never-ending pins and cannot stop myself.

So I devised a few tips on how to help myself to monitor my phone usage to avoid straining my eyes and wrists, as well as avoiding my phone impacting my mental health and overall balance in life.

Tips for wiser smartphone use:

  • Plan when to use it - allocated time for work and leisure.

  • Create a week plan with top priorities and concentrate on those.

  • Limit usage time - use the Pomodoro technique.

  • No phone before bed.

  • No phone while watching TV, cooking, etc.

Final Thoughts on How Overuse of Screens Affects Our Health

Screens are not friends or foe but we, the users, need to be a bit wiser with our usage. Instead of assuming that I won't overuse my screen time, try to learn more about your behaviour. Then create a plan on how to reduce the usage, whether by deleting some of the apps, or limiting your time. But most of all, make sure you use your device instead of being controlled by your gadget. Don't settle on screen overuse and allowing it to affect your health and general wellbeing.


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