Screen time blues – Dawn Woodward CuraproxFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 5th December 2019
Many of us would agree that technology has become integral to daily life. We are so accustomed to having technology at our fingertips that most people in the UK have become dependent on digital devices and the internet.[i] From smartphones, watches and home systems, to tablets, laptops and TVs, technology enables us to connect with the world. Smartphones continue to be one of the most popular digital devices among 16- to 24-year-olds, who use smartphones more excessively than any other age group.[ii] In fact, young people spend an average of nearly 4 hours every day looking at a screen, but at exactly what cost?[iii] Let’s consider some of the effects that technology overuse can have on general health and wellbeing.
The excessive use of digital devices has long been established as a driver of sedentary behaviour. It makes sense that the more time someone spends sitting or lying down in front of a screen, the less time they spend exercising and staying fit – particularly if they are frequently snacking on unhealthy, high-calorie food and drinks. Over time, this can lead to significant weight gain, increasing an individual’s likelihood of becoming obese and developing comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.[iv] Technology overuse can also contribute to musculoskeletal disorders caused by people adopting awkward and uncomfortable positions when using their digital devices, which can result in neck, shoulder and/or back pain. Additional problems can include repetitive strain injuries of the fingers, hands and wrists from repeatedly tapping and scrolling on smartphones and tablets.
Eye strain and fatigue
Research has proven that we blink far less frequently when staring at a screen for long periods of time.[v] This can cause eye strain and fatigue, as our eyes try to focus and concentrate on what we are seeing, which may be affected by screen contrast, flicker, distortion, reflections or glare. It is estimated that 50-90% of computer users suffer from this condition, with symptoms including sore, irritated, dry or teary eyes, blurry or double vision, light sensitivity, difficulty focusing on images, headaches, and even neck pain.[vi] Further research is required to determine whether there are any long-term effects of eye strain and fatigue, but users can minimise any discomfort by following the 20-20-20 rule. This involves taking a break from screens for 20 seconds every 20 minutes and looking at something at least 20 feet away.
You might be among the 79% of people in the UK who check their smartphone within the last hour before going to sleep.[vii] Experts have warned that taking these devices to bed with us or keeping them within reach of the bed at night can contribute to so-called electronic insomnia. This is caused by exposure to the bright, blue light emitted from the screens of digital devices, which disrupt the body’s production of natural sleep hormones, interfering with our ability to fall and stay asleep. Research has found that a staggering 88% of young people in Britain between the age of 11 and 24 have said that screen time has a negative impact on their sleep.[viii] The cost of sleepless nights goes beyond a lack of focus and feeling cranky. It can also lead to the development of more serious health problems, and increases an individual’s risk of premature death by up to 12%.[ix]
Technology overuse can also detrimentally affect oral health. A recent study of more than 1,500 18-year-olds revealed that those who spend more time on computers are significantly more likely to neglect their oral health. It was found that those who spent longer on a computer were less likely to brush their teeth, floss or visit the dentist. The results were particularly concerning for boys, where twice-daily brushing dropped below 50% for those using computers excessively.[x] This research emphasises the importance of engaging with young people about their oral health. One of the ways dental professionals can do this is by recommending innovative dental products to get younger patients motivated about maintaining good oral hygiene. Curaprox offers a wide range of solutions, including the powerful Hydrosonic Pro electric toothbrush, which combines a built-in timer with one-button operation for ultimate usability. This device also features ultra-fine CUREN® filaments and CURACURVE® ergonomics to ensure gentle but effective cleaning of the teeth and gums.
Technology can entertain, educate and facilitate communication, opening up the world to many people in a way that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. It can add limitless value to our lives, especially if we take care to use technology responsibly and mindfully. Being aware of the effects that it can have on our general health and wellbeing is key to limiting our use of technology and ensuring that we can continue benefitting from all that the latest digital devices have to offer.
[i] Ofcom. (2018) A decade of digital dependency. Link: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/decade-of-digital-dependency. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[ii] Deloitte. (2018) Global Mobile Consumer Survey: Excessive phone or smartphone usage by age group. Link: https://www.deloitte.co.uk/mobileuk/#uk-excessive-phone-or-smartphone-usage-by-age-group. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[iii] Code Computerlove. (2019) Screen time statistics 2019: How do you compare? Link: https://www.codecomputerlove.com/blog/screen-time-stats. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[iv] Jarolimova, J., Tagoni, J. and Stern, T. A. (2013) Obesity: Its Epidemiology, Comorbidities, and Management. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. 15(5): PCC.12f01475. DOI: 10.4088/PCC.12f01475. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3907314/. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[v] Patel, S., Henderson, R., Bradley, L., Galloway, B., and Hunter, L. (1991) Effect of Visual Display Unit Use on Blink Rate and Tear Stability. Optometry and Vision Science. 68(11): 888-892. DOI: 10.1097/00006324-199111000-00010.
[vi] Sheppard, A. L. and Wolffsohn, J. S. (2018) Digital eye strain: pravelence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Opthalmology. 3: e000146. DOI: 0.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146. Link: https://bmjophth.bmj.com/content/3/1/e000146.info. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[vii] Deloitte. (2017) UK public are ‘glued to smartphones’ as device adoption reaches new heights. Link: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/uk-public-glued-to-smartphones.html. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[viii] RCPCH. (2018) What do children and young people think about screen time? Link: https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-12/rcpch_screen_time_full_cyp_views.pdf. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[ix] Cappuccio, F. P., D’Elia, L., Strazzullo, P. and Miller, M. A. (2010) Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep. 33(5): 585–592. DOI: 10.1093/sleep/33.5.585. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864873/. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
[x] Olczak-Kowalczyk, A., Tomczyk, J., Gozdowski, D. and Kaczmarek, U. (2019) Excessive computer use as an oral health risk behaviour in 18-year-old youths from Poland: A cross-sectional study. Clinical and Experimental Dental Research. 5(3): 284-293. DOI: 10.1002/cre2.183. Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/cre2.183. [Last accessed: 05.08.19].
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