Smartphones have permeated our society and changed the ways we operate in the world drastically. It doesn’t look like this technology will go away any time soon. So rather than condemn it utterly, we should look at ways to adjust our screen time instead.
After all, phones have given us a way to communicate instantly with our friends and loved ones. And, we can make new connections with people in various corners of the world.
Smartphones can have a positive impact on society, but too much screen time leads to adverse effects. These disturbing statistics show just how addicted we’ve become to our screens:
- 7% of people sleep with their phones at night
- 32% of survey respondents say they spend more time on their phones than with their S.O.’s
- 8% feel uneasy leaving their phone at home
- 4% use or look at their phone while driving
- 4% consider themselves addicted to their phones
- 58% report that they spend more than three hours on their phones per day
- 17% spend more time on their phone than with their children
This data came from a survey of 500 men and women over the age of 18, performed by reviews.org. As you can see, excessive screen time affects various facets of life, from time spent with loved ones to our quality of sleep. Below, we’ll go more in-depth about how spending too much time on your phone can impact your mental and physical health.
Scientists reveal how excessive screen time lowers health:
Checking our phones dozens or even hundreds of times a day can severely affect our mental and physical health. All that stems from staring at a screen. Sometimes it seems hard to fathom how smartphones have become such an unhealthy addiction in society. Indeed, many people simply can’t live without their phones.
However, this reliance on technology comes at a cost to our well-being. Think back to a time before you had a smartphone. You probably felt a lot more free, present, and calm without your device in your hands all the time. The studies below might make you want to get back to the good old days, or at least cut down drastically on your screen time.
Physical health problems associated with excessive screen time
First off, we will go over how smartphones can impair your physical health. Think about what position you must keep your head and neck in to look down at your smartphone, sometimes for hours at a time. Your head weighs anywhere between 10 and 12 pounds, and tilting it down for hours a day can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your head and neck. Holding this position for long periods can lead to spinal curvature loss, which can cause something scientists call “text neck.”
Not to mention, this unhealthy posture can contribute to mood and behavior problems. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, bending your head down for long periods can lead to depression, fatigue, and even decrease the oxygen your lungs can take in.
Furthermore, staying on your phone for hours a day, especially before bed, can disrupt your circadian rhythm due to the blue light emitted from the phone. While phones now come with light adjustment features that dim the lights closer to bedtime, it still can affect your sleep by overstimulating your brain. Many people even wake up in the middle of the night to check their phones!
Finally, the amount of time spent staring at one object can contribute to “tired eyes,” which can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. Plus, the rampant vision problems we see today have likely been caused, at least partially, by staring at screens and books for extended periods.
Mental health problems caused by excessive screen time
Despite how antisocial and disconnected from our environments we’ve become, 75 percent of Americans don’t believe their smartphone affects their social skills in group settings, according to the Pew Research Center. A third of Americans believe that using their smartphone during social times benefits the conversation.
Sadly, this just shows how addicted we’ve become to our smartphones, and how many people deny how excessive screen time affects their ability to socialize and function in society. Smartphones serve as an escape from reality, even if the users don’t perceive it this way. It takes our focus away from our immediate environment and makes the people around us have to fight for our attention. Technology should never take the place of human relationships, and unfortunately, it seems that many of us prioritize our online lives over our real ones.
If you look around you in any given setting, you’ll see people of all ages glued to their phones. In fact, in 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 24 percent of teenagers reported spending time online “almost constantly.” According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, most adults spend 10+ hours a day staring at screens. This staggering amount of time spent on our phones can impact our mental and emotional health over time.
What do the experts say about the overuse of smartphones?
“Mobile devices are the mother of inattentional blindness,” said Henry Alford, the author of “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners.” “That’s the state of monomaniacal obliviousness that overcomes you when you’re absorbed in an activity to the exclusion of everything else.”
In a study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, researchers found that 70 percent of women reported smartphones had interfered with their relationships. Technology should never drive a wedge between essential relationships in one’s life. However, any addiction tends to do that over time, unfortunately.
According to another study performed at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, researchers found that participants felt negative feelings when a person’s smartphone was visible during a conversation. Researchers asked 34 pairs of strangers to have conversations about trivial topics. They also discussed other insignificant events happening in their lives.
Half of the participants had a mobile device visible while the other half had a notebook out on the table. The results showed that the participants who discussed essential events in their lives with only a notebook present felt they could trust the stranger. However, the ones with a cell phone had the opposite effect.
Other impacts of excessive screen time
Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that empathy levels across age groups have decreased overall, while narcissism continues to climb. This doesn’t seem surprising since social media platforms survive on people gaining attention on their posts with likes and comments.
Finally, smartphone usage increases cortisol and stress levels in the body significantly. A study performed at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that women who reported excessive screen time had more sleep disturbances and higher stress levels. In men, heavy smartphone usage led to higher rates of depression and sleep disruptions.
So, in short, smartphones have made us anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, antisocial, narcissistic, and inconsiderate toward others. Perhaps we should reevaluate our relationships with our devices, knowing this information. With that said, we have control over our time and actions, and smartphones don’t have to take over our lives.
How can we cut back on screen time?
1 – Limit your time on your phone.
Most newer phones come equipped with app limits now that turn off apps after a particular time. Utilize these tools if you have a hard time staying off your phone. Or, better yet, simply turn it off for a portion of your day. Remember, smartphones can serve as a tool to benefit your life, but they don’t have to control you.
2 – Change how you use your smartphone.
Smartphones, like anything else, can either help or hurt us, depending on how we use them. Instead of using them as a crutch or escape from reality, try only to use your phone when necessary. Engage with your environment in your downtime, and give your loved ones undivided attention. If you develop a healthy relationship with your phone, it won’t have near as much power over you.
3 – Have a life outside your phone.
Much of our world operates virtually now, but a whole reality exists outside your screens as well. Make sure to have hobbies and interests outside your online life, so you don’t lose yourself in the virtual world. Make time for self-care, exercise, and other things that keep you healthy. Only look at your phone as something to use when you have free time.
Perhaps we’ve forgotten that we have control over our actions. And if our screens have taken over our lives, we hold power to change this. If you think you’ve become addicted to your phone, take baby steps to distance yourself from the technology. Excessive screen time can quickly become a hazard to your mental and physical health, but with time and effort, you can take your life back.