Computers and smartphones have revolutionized how people work. But these advancements come with some trade-offs. Long exposure to and improper use of technology can greatly affect your health in more ways than one.
Health risk due to sitting for long periods of time. Be wary of sitting for long stretches of time since it can pose serious risks to your health. Whether you do it while reading a book, using your mobile phone, or working on your computer, sitting restricts blood circulation, stresses your back, and doesn’t help your body burn calories. As a result, you have a higher chance of getting diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and gaining weight.
There’s nothing wrong with sitting, as long as it isn’t done excessively. The remedy is to take frequent breaks, at least five minutes for every hour of work that you do. During your break, take time away from the computer, stretch, and walk around.
Back pain caused by bad posture. You don’t get bad posture from sitting all the time. However, it can be developed over time, especially when done habitually regardless of whether you’re standing, walking, or sitting. Unconsciously, this affects your body negatively—tightening or weakening the muscles—causing undue pain in your back, shoulders, and neck; and worse, it may even cause tension headaches.
Buying or setting-up equipment ergonomically is the best remedy. The top edge of your monitor should be at eye level, and the screen should be angled backward and at arm’s length. While sitting, lean back as it is considered the best sitting posture for your back.
Injuries caused by repetitive movements. Repetitive physical movements can cause RSI, or repetitive strain injury. This means that nerves, muscles, or other soft tissues in the body get damaged from small but habitual actions that you do. RSI commonly affects the hands or wrists and may eventually lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
You can use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse that are designed to work with the natural flow and structure of your hands. Use as little force as possible, and consciously relax your hands and arms while working.
Eyestrain from long screen exposure. Eyestrain, dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches are just some things you’re at risk of having when you spend hours and hours on end in front of any screen—phone or computer. This may be worse if you already have untreated vision problems.
According to the American Optometric Association, it’s harder for the eyes to focus on a digital screen compared to a printed page because there’s less contrast between the letters and background. There’s glare and reflection as well that might further dull the letters.
The 20/20/20 rule is an easy enough remedy to avoid eyestrain. Every two minutes, look at an object twenty feet away for twenty seconds. Improving the lighting in the room or putting an anti-glare screen also helps.
Laptop-related injuries. Laptops are not designed as ergonomically as a conventional computer setup so it’s not advisable to use them for long periods of time. However, for some people, they have no choice because they work on-the-go most of the time.
You can buy peripheral equipment—like a docking station, a separate keyboard, and a mouse—so that you better position the different elements of your workstation in a way that’s most conducive for you.
Anxiety and depression from emotional isolation. It is undeniable that computers and smartphones make you more productive. Instead of spending the free time you have accumulated from being efficient, the tendency is to cram in more work.
As a consequence, you have less time for actual face-to-face interactions with friends, peers, and family. This can cause issues to mental health (isolation, anxiety, and depression) and manifest itself physically. The symptoms are diverse and can include insomnia, tense muscles, and increased breathing, among many others.
During breaks, socialize with the people around you. Make working out and meditating before or after work a daily habit. Seek out professional help if you feel these remedies are not helping you cope.
Health risks for children. Children are the most susceptible to the harmful effects of electronic games. According to studies, there’s a high correlation between childhood obesity and playing computer games as a kid. And like adults, they’re also at risk of having back pains and muscle and joint injuries.
While computer gaming can help children enhance their visual memory or expand their attention span, some games may not be suitable for them. Some titles have themes of war and violence that can instil aggressive behavior in them.
As a responsible adult, it’s your job to limit children’s exposure to computer games by setting boundaries like when and for how long they can play. Teach them the proper way of handling the phone or the computer, and organize fun activities where the kids can pursue other interests.