Living in the 21st Century has a lot of benefits. We live in a world with modern medicine, modern transportation, and the most advanced technology the world has seen. However, like most benefits, there are hindrances that accompany them.
Thanks to modern medicine we can prevent the spread of dangerous diseases, but we can also choose to not vaccinate our children and risk disease spreading rapidly. With the help of modern transportation, we are able to travel from place to place faster than ever before, but we pollute the planet and harm the environment through most of these modes. And, while technology has brought the entire world closer together, it is also in front of us through one screen or another throughout most of our days. This is especially true when you work in the IT sector and subject yourself to prolonged screen time. It is important to know how prolonged screen time can affect your health and how to prevent further damage.
Before the mass marketing of in-home computers, most people did not spend a lot of time in front of technology. Besides the occasional time spent watching television, at a safe distance from the television itself, people were not subjected to technology like they are today. In the last 30 years, the rise of the digital age has put screens in front of more people for longer amounts of time. Throughout the last decade, studies surrounding how prolonged screen time can affect your health have started to appear.
Multiple studies around screen time discuss the effects that prolonged screen time has on children, teens, and adults. Children can suffer from learning and problem-solving delays when exposed to excessive screen time under the age of 30 months. Too much screen time has also proven to affect children’s language skills, emotional development, sleep schedule, and vision. Teens suffer from a lot of the same effects. However, screen time can also affect a teenager’s self-confidence, social skills, and emotions drastically.
So, how does prolonged screen time affect the health of adults? The answer is — in many ways. Adults who work in the IT sector undoubtedly subject themselves to the most amount of screen time among professions. Anywhere from 8-10 hours of time spent working in front of a screen is only part of it, too. The hours these same adults spend at home on their phones, personal computers, or watching television also factor into how screen time affects their health.
4 Ways Prolonged Screen Time Affects Adults’ Health
Vision is the first thing that people most often think of when contemplating how screen time affects your health. This may be because it is obvious that your eyes will be affected by continuous exposure to light. Or it may be because most people start to feel the negative effects of prolonged screen time in their eyes first. The most common symptoms of the effects prolonged screen time has on vision include fatigue, blurred vision, eye dryness, and headache.
Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are two additional ways that prolonged screen times can affect your health. The screens themselves stimulate the brain which makes relaxing and falling into a restful sleep hard. This is especially true for those who use their phone in bed at night and turn them off right before they go to sleep. The blue light that radiates from a phone’s screen has been proven to suppress the hormone, melatonin, that promotes sleep. This, in turn, prevents those who use their phones soon before going to bed from falling into a restful sleep and cycling through REM sleep and non-REM sleep.
Numerous studies in the past have linked as few as two hours of television a day to an increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes in adults. While there aren’t many studies that find the same direct correlations between screen time and these risk factors, it is safe to assume there are correlations. They may not be as prevalent because a lot of people are active while on their phones, but prolonged screen time does lead to less time being active and less sleep. These are both factors that contribute to weight gain and weight-related diseases. In addition, prolonged screen time makes people more susceptible to advertisements for unhealthy foods. This exposure leads to unhealthy cravings and eating habits resulting in weight gain, as well.
Proper posture can be hard enough to maintain without prolonged time in front of a computer or excessive phone use. Spending a lot of time in front of a touch device can result in neck and shoulder pain which can lead to scoliosis. Touch devices also have adverse effects on the hands and can cause early-onset carpal tunnel. What a lot of people don’t know is how computer keyboards, mice, and screen heights can also negatively affect posture. Excessive use of keyboards and mice can lead to inflammation in the arms, hands, and wrists. Viewing computer screens that are not at eye level can cause neck pain and issues with proper posture.
While prolonged screen time cannot be prevented for those working in the IT sector, those who do spend a lot of time in front a computer screen can modify their work environment to not be as harmful to their health. Blue light glasses are becoming more popular, especially among younger IT workers, and for good reason. They block the harmful blue light that comes out of screens and causes both vision trouble and disrupted sleep. Altering the height of your computer screens, so they are eye level, can help prevent posture problems from developing.
Being mindful of how often you are on your phone or in front of a computer is the first step. Learning how prolonged screen time can affect your health is the second step to prevention. Overall, taking breaks from your screen usage is the best way to prevent health issues from arising. Experts recommend for every hour you spend looking at a screen, you spend 15 minutes away from a screen. By taking walks during those 15-minute breaks, you can prevent weight gain, eye strain, posture trouble, and more.
There are some situations where prolonged screen time is unavoidable. So, it is important to balance screen time with non-screen time. Pay attention to how much time you’re spending in front of screens and how your body is reacting. With the right measures, you can continue your IT-based job and not suffer from health issues that can arise from too much exposure to technology.