In 2015, the US Census reported that 78 percent of all households owned a computer, and 75 percent of all households owned a handheld computer device such as a tablet or smart phone. That number, no doubt, has substantially increased since 2015. Between work, home, and the growing dependence on cell phones for communication, information, and entertainment- our time in front of screens is getting out of control. Turns out, there are actual medical issues that can result from spending too much time in front of the screen.
So, what can actually happen, you ask? Several things. The first is a well-known ailment that used to only be associated with secretaries and data entry specialists: carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel is a stress related injury caused by repetitive motion of the joints, especially the wrist. The second well known problem is Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as digital eye strain. According to the American Optometric Association this term describes a group of eye and vision related problems caused from looking at screens for too long. The most common symptoms of CVS are: headaches, blurred vision, eye strain, and dry eyes. These may result from glare on the screen, poor lighting, sitting too close to the screen, or the exacerbation of uncorrected vision problems. The blue light emitted from the screen is also known to cause sleep issues. Studies have shown that the light affects melatonin production, and can prevent individuals from falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting restorative rest.
Since the discovery of these computer related ailments, ergonomic products have been manufactured to help with carpal tunnel, and computer glasses have been developed to help with all symptoms of CVS. The glasses help to reduce both glare and the blue light emitted from the screen which causes much of the eye strain. By wearing these glasses during computer and cell phone use, the symptoms of CVS can be reduced or eliminated.
These are two of the most well-known computer related health problems, but another issue that can arise is back and neck pain, which mostly develops due to poor posture while viewing the screen. The hunching over towards the screen is sometimes worsened by chairs and other accessories not designed specifically for viewing in the right position. According to Wikipedia, all of the above and several other symptoms are a product of computer vision syndrome.
Beyond physical effects, intensive use of cell phones and computers can have detrimental emotional effects including stress and depression. The popularity of social media has given rise to increased loneliness, depression and anxiety as a result of comparing one’s life to others. In schools, children are bullied by classmates posting nasty comments and embarrassing photos poking fun. The anonymity of the screen makes people more brazen, and they’re able to be cruel. Things that they would never say to another in person seamlessly get typed from the keyboard and onto the internet forever. Even though computers and technology have brought many positive advances, it has also brought its fair share of health problems. As long as there is awareness, we can prevent them and bring out only the best from technology.