Physical Effects

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates that you spend no more than an hour or two per day engaged in entertainment media. That works out to ten to fifteen hours a week. If you are using screens for entertainment more hours a week than you are doing your homework or hanging out with friends, it can lead to a host of problems: mental, physical, and emotional. Extensive use of digital media/technology can have a host of physical side effects. Some of these include eye strain, vision issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, “tech neck” (neck pain that’s caused by strain and stress to the muscles and tissues of the cervical spine), and headaches. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to protect yourself against the negative physical effects of being on screens.

Social Media
  • The more you get wrapped up in follower counts, the more likely you are to do something sexy, scandalous, or stupid. Do not risk your health, body parts, or personal safety by doing something risky for the “likes.”
  • The 20/20/20 rule is easy to remember and a great way to avoid the different types of digital eye strain (e.g., headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and permanent damage requiring medical intervention) that can occur.
  • For every 20 minutes you spend on a screen, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away.
  • Mind your privacy settings (as well as your location sharing), as some social networking apps can make it easy for predators to find, track, and locate you IRL (in real life) through GPS (Global Positioning System) location, mapping, and patterns of “checking in” when posting.
Screen Time
  • Holding your device up and in front of your face (rather than down in your lap), stretching your arms to the side and behind you while leaning backwards, and breaks from your devices can help you avoid the dreaded “tech neck” and help your posture.
  • Sleep is important for growth, attention, and mood management. The more artificial light you are exposed to and the closer to bedtime you are exposed to it, can mess with your ability to fall asleep. Try blue glass glasses, having at least an hour of screen-free time before bed, and getting plenty of natural light during the day to help.
  • Long periods of screen time, especially in awkward positions or with repetitive movements, can cause physical pain and discomfort; vary your positions, take breaks every 20 minutes, and don’t forget to do other, physical activities that involve moving your body, sunshine, and fresh air.
  • Most video game play is sedentary, and extended and uninterrupted game time promotes a more sedentary lifestyle. This is known to have negative health effects, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Any prolonged noise over 85 decibels (about what you hear when using a blender or lawnmower) can put your ears at risk for permanent damage. Just because you don’t feel pain while playing or listening to music, doesn’t mean you aren’t in danger of hearing loss. Sound doesn’t have to be uncomfortable to do damage. Be sure to not have the volume on your headphones or earbuds up too loud.