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How bad are screens for your body?

Dec 11, 2017

How bad are screens for your body?


How Bad Are Screens For Your Body?

Some helpful tips to combat the unavoidable.

You’re surrounded by them. They’re in your house, at your work, and even in your pockets. We’re talking about screens. What were more or less novelties a handful of decades ago are so abundant nowadays that today’s toddlers are often given iPads instead of pacifiers. Unless you travel far, far away from civilization, you’re probably going to see at least one of them every day for the rest of your life. Most Americans are looking at a screen for at least 10 hours a day on average. But too much of anything isn’t supposed to be good for you, so how do screens and devices affect our health?

Props to your parents if they were always telling you computers were bad for your eyes, because they were right. The backlight of most digital screens emits a blue high-energy visible light wavelength, which is the prime culprit of eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, and even blurred vision you may experience after spending too much time in front of a screen. Because of how our eyes react to this blue light, it also disorients your sleep schedule by withholding the release of the sleep-inducing melanin before your planned bedtimes. At least those nights we all stay up way too late because of Netflix weren’t (just) because we were feeling lazy.

Unfortunately, it messes with more than our eyes. Screens have been proven to damage our brains’ gray matter, or the areas of our brain where mental processing occurs. This can cause a plethora of problems, ranging from mental health and emotional wellness, especially in children. Because pretty much anything can be obtained with the internet with incredibly little effort, computers give us less satisfaction when we accomplish a task, less empathy when we can view heartfelt videos online, and more apathy when we brush past terrible news headlines. This creates both an endless and unsatisfiable hunger for more, which transfer into our real lives. Add in how second-nature it is for us to block out ads, and you’ve got an example of how we’ve got more problems with processing emotions than previous generations. Screen damage can really hit you deep.

So what precautions can we take? I can already hear my dad whining in my head, “get off the computer!” But let’s be real, that’s simply not plausible in modern times. Thankfully, there are a couple other handy tactics you can try. For starters, if you are on the computer for more than 2 hours, try getting up and taking a break to get your blood flowing and give your eyes a rest. Shoot the bull with some real people to make sure you’re still human. While you’re up, give the 20 20 20 rule a whirl – for every 20 seconds you spend on your screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away from you. This is more effective if you spend that break looking at something green like at some foliage outside to counteract the colors of your screen. Speaking of the devil, you can combat that disorienting blue light of your screen by turning your brightness down or putting your phone on “night mode”. For a more effective fix, you can even use software like f.lux that automatically adjusts your screen’s brightness to match the time of day in your region by making it bright during the day and removing the blue during the night to give your screen a neat “warm” tinge. To also help with your sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends turning off electronics before bedtime. About an hour should be enough. Lastly, if you make your bed space completely void of screens, your body will consider it a designated zone for sleeping. Small efforts like these can make quite a bit of a difference.

So sure, computer screens overall have major effects on the human body and too much of a good thing never ends up well. As long as you take some breaks, the effects probably won’t be that detrimental. Besides, nobody is excited to hang out with somebody who’s constantly on their phone. Maybe our parents were right –a bit less time in front of the screen might not be so bad for us after all.