Blue Screen Mania

Unless you have been living in a remote Adirondack cave, cut off from society for decades, you know that we are in the midst of a technological age that effects the core of our culture. Some advances are exciting, and some are down-right scary!

There is a lot of talk these days about the effect that tech is having on our children, communication and health. Will we have tendinitis in our thumbs from texting too much? Will whole generations lack face to face communication skills ultimately finding companionship with artificial intelligence? Will the small screens and blue light permanently damage our eyesight?

There are multiple concerns embedded within the bulwark of technology. Blue light, screen addiction, isolation, and stress are just a few. This short article will only skim the surface.

Multiple studies have shown that the use of screens (phones, computers and TVs) have caused harm to both children and adults. In general terms, harm looks like disrupted/shortened sleep, increased rates of emotional/social/behavioral problems, decreased physical activity and hence increased rates of obesity.

Some of this is logical. If you spend all day on a phone or computer you will probably be indoors, seated and sedentary. Over time this will naturally result in weight gain due to a lack of movement.

Other reasons?
A 2017 study showed that the use of blue-light emitting devices caused a disruption in the circadian rhythm resulting in restless or diminished sleep. The blue light triggers the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). Your heart rate and breathing increase and your body is ready for action. The blue light tricks your brain into thinking it is daylight and time to be awake and alert.

A 2014 study found similar results with subjects sending an email and awaiting a response. The body went right into “fight or flight” for just 1 email!

Americans check their phones upwards of 150 times a day. Along with “fight or flight” stressing our bodies we also get a dopamine hit with every text, chat or email response. So now we are stressed out but blindly feeling good about it. This is what leads to the addictive nature of technology use.

For all of the wonderful advances technology has brought into our lives these negative points are serious. We have kids and adults becoming addicted, isolated and depressed because their bodies are internally stressed and malfunctioning as a result.

What can we do?

Plenty. As with anything in life there is balance. With school and work, some screens are unavoidable but we can take steps to minimize their effects on our health.

Use apps or settings to lesson the brightness of your screen or change it from a glaring blue light to a softer hew that is easier on your eyes and won’t disrupt sleep patterns. It is also recommended to put away devices at least 1 hour before bed to allow your system to settle down and realize it is nighttime.

Reduce distractions by turning off excess notifications, badges and banners. Notifications are manufactured to make you behave like Pavlov’s dog. When the notification dings or appears, you get a dopamine hit. Set specific times during the day to check email and messages. You are in control of the device. Don’t let it control you.

Use alarms productively by setting times for stretch or walk breaks to add movement throughout the day.

And most importantly, set boundaries for yourself and your children as to how much recreational screen time takes place. The recommended limit for teenagers and adults is only 2 hours per day and even less from children.

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