In this day and age, most of us are living with a smartphone glued to our hands. A jack of all trades, the smartphone is a versatile tool, blending perfectly in most of our daily environments, whether it is work, commute, living room entertainment, or bedroom routines. But what are the dangers of smartphone use? Is smartphone addiction a real thing, and what is a bigger health hazard – cell phone usage, or the habitual staring at the all-in-one mobile device? Well, let’s find out.
A long time ago, people talked about the dangers of mobile phones. But today, we tend to redirect our concerns towards the habitual use of the smartphone, as it includes internet, social media, games, texting, YouTube for entertainment and so much more.
With the internet of things, the smartphone has become a remote, a health monitoring device, a fitness tracker data hub, and personal wallet. It is also a productivity tool, featuring everything and anything – from email and cloud storage access, to camera, collaborative software, photo and video editing, spreadsheets, and industry specific tools that count in the dozens, if not hundreds.
The dangers of smartphone use
Considering the gradual improvement of technology, and the utilization of such tech into the mobile device, our phones are literally substituting millions of dollars’ worth of tools and gadgets.
However, the word gradually is the main culprit behind the health hazards of smartphone use. Ever since the connection of smartphone and internet, the average mobile user access most of the web via this tiny rectangular devices. And this spells trouble in so many ways.
Let’s go over the dangers of smartphone use and see how to minimize each, as it affects our health.
Many people find it anxiety inducing to be “on” most of the time. But smartphone devices make this inevitable. Turning on the Wi-Fi gives the opportunity for your friends, colleagues and even random people to show up in your life, at a time when you’d be in a different company otherwise.
For many, even the thought of a colleague, or a work related chore, right before bedtime, can be enough to raise the level of anxiousness.
The constant connectedness interrupts quality time with your family, your morning and evening routines, and social gatherings where the smartphone competes for attention.
In order to minimize this danger of smartphone use, make sure to have your data and Wi-Fi turned off at certain times of day. Then, you can go one step further and have notifications turned off for some social media or instant messaging apps.
If you can, in any way, influence work policies at your company, make sure to propose a dedicated app for collaborative chat. Otherwise, your personal accounts get easily merged with your professional ones, and next thing you know you are reading a conversation between colleagues right after texting with your kids.
We have written before about maintaining good eyesight, and smartphone use is one of the main culprits behind eye strain. The problem is three-fold. So let’s unwrap one of the main dangers of smartphone use.
First, we tend to look at this tiny screen for hours each day. Monitoring apps can easily convince you of the validity of this statement, even though many of us are oblivious to the fact, and likely in denial.
So, in order to reduce this part of the problem, make sure to install a time-monitoring app. As they say – what gets measured gets improved, or in this case, minimized.
Blue light is the second part of the problem. Most devices emit this type of light, which seriously jeopardizes eye-health.
The solution is to turn on a blue-light filter, which is often titled as eye-protection, eye-care or something similar. Then, you can go a step further and set the preferences for a dark theme in most of your favorite apps. This will minimize the strain on your eyes, especially in a dimly lit room. Coincidently, it will reduce the incentive of checking your apps so often, and scrolling ad infinitum once you do open them.
You can always lower the degree of brightness on your smartphone, or, turn on the flashlight whenever you are sitting in a dark or dimly lit room. This is not a trick you are likely to find parroted around on the net, but trust me – necessity is the mother of invention. What the flashlight does is lighting up the space behind the screen as you hold it, thereby reducing the contrast between the dark room and the bright glass. This creates a more forgiving environment for your eyes.
The third problem is proximity. The more we bring the screen to our face, the more we tense the eye. A good tip, therefore, would be to move the smartphone away from you, at an arms length, and even occasionally look to the side in order to relax the retina.
Eye strain also means headache, diminished productivity, and poorly balanced mood. This is why the dangers of smartphone use have much to do with the eyes.
Measuring everything and anything
Apps compete for your attention, so naturally they will give gazillion of options for you to play with. More often than not, this translates into counting your steps, your internet usage, your hours spent working out, meditating, sleeping, working, what have you…
While parts of this might be entertaining and even helpful, the habit as a whole deters from more valuable pursuits. Trivial things don’t always require attention, and we should be convinced otherwise just in order to affect some company’s bottom dollar.
Smartphone use and driving
Just. Stop. Please.
Make it a habit to put your smartphone on silent, or at least have it properly connected to your car’s audio and commands.
Otherwise, you are simply fooling yourself that matters that require your attention are going to take a fraction of a second and be easy enough to multitask while driving, without putting you, your family, and everyone else on the road in serious jeopardy.
According to Statista, cell phone usage is the culprit behind 70,000 crashes on US roads each year. Of these, many result with fatalities, which count roughly 450 people per year.
Watching into the small screen can seriously affect your circadian rhythm, leaving your melatonin production system in a total mess.
Apps today are designed with behavioral engineering, tailored just to the right degree to perpetually keep you scrolling, or swiping, or pressing your thumbs against the glass.
Whether it is social media, or YouTube, or games, or access to friends via texting, the smartphone introduces a very unnatural element into your bedroom, which goes against every sound advice for sleep.
Therefore, make your bedroom a smartphone free area, or at least have a different device (preferably a tablet) with a limited number of apps installed.
While productivity often refers to work productivity related to your professional endeavors, there is a case to be made about productive time which extends beyond the office and the workplace.
Namely, spare hours can be spent productively, with family, friends, in the open, and on something that enriches our health and wellbeing as opposed to diminishing it.
Entertainment nowadays is available at the tap of a finger, and we can choose between YouTube, Twitch, Tik-Tok, and what not… But considering how these platforms are made with a Machiavellian intent in their development, it is no wonder that we are zombie-like in their consumption – not entirely aware, and not entirely driven by intent.
In order to combat this, try consuming content that has been bookmarked from the day before, so that you can have enough time to decide whether its consumption is impulsive or premeditated.
You can also meditate daily, in order to increase awareness of your behavior, and have clear intent in everything that you do – the benefits of meditation are enormous in this regard. Productivity journals and planners are also helpful in this regard, as you become more present with every line of text written.
The dangers of mobile phones
People today are afraid of 5G for all the wrong reasons. What they should be afraid of is RF waves, which is a form of radiation.
However, even though this type of radiation is measurable and dangerous at high enough degrees of exposure, the truth of the matter is that cell phones emit a very small amount of RF waves.
Phone manufacturers are obliged to specify the SAR (specific absorption rate) of each model, which is a metric that indicates how much of this RF radiation the cell phone is emitting at its maximum capacity. Though, keep in mind that these figures might be misleading, since they only specify the amount of RF radiation at maximum capacity, instead of the habitual daily exposure a user normally receives.
Nevertheless, according to Cancer Society, and the FDA, normal cell phone usage is not harmful and is not believed to cause malignant tumors in people.
Still, in order to minimize this type of exposure, try using the speakerphone or text instead of calling when the opportunity allows. You can move the smartphone away from your pillow at night, and keep your Wi-Fi and data internet turned off when not in active use.
The dangers of smartphone use for kids
The list from above applies just as much to kids as it does to us adults. But for them it is even more dangerous.
Kids have to learn how to navigate properly thought social situations; they have to familiarize themselves with the world, with their bodies, with the sensation of wind touching their face…
And guess what – smartphone use severely affects all of this.
The younger the child, the more dangerous a smartphone is in his or her hand. For toddlers, it is a serious offense to their health. Instead of learning to react to normal stimuli, a child is left bamboozled by a cacophony of rich sounds, vivid colors, and attention grabbing animation.
The more they are exposed to this unnatural mix, the less they are capable of reacting to the world as designed.
Conclusion – the dangers of smartphone use
Knowing what you do, it is much easier to mitigate the health hazards from smartphone use, but this process requires diligence and habitual practice. Cell phone users today should be much more concerned about deteriorating mental health; poor sleep quality, and eye strain, than brain tumors from RF waves and low frequency non-ionizing radiation. Just remember that the smartphone can be your most valuable tool – which replaces millions worth of equipment, but also your worst enemy, taking away your agency, purpose, and awareness throughout the day, forcing you to scroll and swipe uncontrollably as it ruins several aspects of your wellbeing.