Today we are talking about screen time. Screen time contributes to less creativity, improper posture, rapid degeneration of the spine, and various health issues. There are more studies being conducted on children and neck pain because of the use of mobile devices. One of the alarming areas we are seeing weekly when looking at cervical spine x-rays is reversed curvature. While we expect to see some of this in older patients, younger patients are coming in with disc hernias and alignment problems.
Text Neck is a new term describing pain in the neck associated with constant cell phone use. Holding the neck at 45 degrees looking down at your phone four hours a day has a detrimental effect on the spine. Your head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. As you flex it forward to 15 degrees that puts almost 30 pounds of pressure on the cervical spine that is designed to hold 10-12 pounds. When someone is sitting looking at their phone, the weight on the cervical spine goes up to a whopping 60 pounds of pressure because they hold their head at a 60-degree angle.
Rapid Development of Technology
Part of the problem is the rapid advancement of technology. Ray Kurzweil says that we are in a time of exponential growth, that we will not experience 100 years of growth in the twenty- first century, but 20,000 years of growth. Creative destruction is a term used to describe the revolution of constantly destroying the old structure and replacing it with a new one. Screen time is partly related to this through the development of the computer. The computer used to take up an entire room and was designed on paper and built by hand. Forty years later we have a computer designed on a computer that is getting smaller and smaller and is built by automation. That computer is a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or other mobile device.
Track Your Screentime
The latest Apple update has an interesting feature that everyone should be monitoring. It tells you how much time and which apps you are spending the most time on. Screen time is watching TV, playing game consoles, or using a mobile computer or tablet. One study by Fast Company discusses how more screen time actually makes people less happy. A recent national survey conducted by Common Sense Media, which included nearly 1,800 parents of children aged 8 to 18, found that parents spend an average of just over nine hours every day in front of different screens—including smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions. Dr. Todd Lanman, a spinal neurosurgeon, says that children who are still growing and developing may need surgery before age 30 as a result of excessive screen time. Children are now spending less time outside on average than a prison inmate. A short film about inmates in a correctional institute in Indiana shows that they receive two hours of outside time every day. The film goes on to interview the inmates, asking them how they would feel if they had their time reduced to just one hour a day. The answers were as follows: “That would be torture”; “I would feel pretty sad about it”; and “I think that’s going to build more anger.” Then when they were asked, “Who do you think only gets one hour of time outside daily?”, they were shocked to learn that this is the life of many children in today’s society. Too much screen time is causing children to be less creative. Results from a recent study show that at age five, children score a 98 percent on creativity, but by contrast a 10- year old score in the 30-percentile range. A BBC study on screen time conducted in 2015 showed that children ages 5-16 average just over six hours of screen time per day. Teenage boys are spending the most time, averaging eight hours per day or about four months out of a year! Some reasons why kids are spending less time outdoors is because of parental fear, lack of access to green space, more homework, and rising screen time. Children desperately need real play for proper development. Play is unstructured, creative, imaginative time that is losing the battle to screens.
Detrimental Effect on Brain
Staring at a screen for so many hours is having an effect on our brain and nervous system development. Our brains are unlearning vital survival skills that we as a human species have developed over ages. The focus on the small screen just beyond our nose narrows our field of view. Our peripheral vision is diminished as our brains deem things outside of that tiny screen unimportant. No longer do we need to react to unpredictable threats to survive. Instead of engaging all of our senses in daily activities, we are narrowing it down to just a couple of senses, those being vision and hearing. As a result, even vision and hearing are getting worse. There are other side effects to staring at a screen. It reduces the natural curves in the neck and upper back causing the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to be stressed beyond what they were designed to handle. This sets children, as well as adults, up for a lifetime of chronic pain as the spine degenerates at a more rapid pace. It doesn’t end there. This lack of movement causes a whole host of problems like obesity, cardiovascular problems, blood pressure issues, diabetes, shallow breathing, improper biomechanics, lack of sleep, and vision issues. Here are some excellent guidelines provided by a nonprofit concerned with providing support for the youth of Israel and interaction with digital devices. You can find the complete article by clicking here. Recommendations for Parents to Prevent Injuries to Health, and Instructions for the Safe Use of Media
- Encourage parents to monitor and control the time their children spend in front of screens.
- Raise parents’ awareness that their viewing habits are a source of emulation and may affect their children’s habits; backgrounds of passive media also can influence health.
- Encourage parents to develop a comprehensive user plan for all types of media at home, including content type and time management.
- As much as possible, reduce the use of media devices during meals, an hour before sleep, and during sleep.
- Establish frequent breaks when using devices.
Suggested daily total viewing time for all screens:
- Ages 0-2: Refrain from any viewing. No studies demonstrate benefits of watching TV or videos at this age; many studies stress the importance of human contact with infants.
- Ages 3-7: 0.5-1 hours a day
- Age 7-12: 1 hour a day
- Age 12-15: 1.5 hours a day
- Age 16+: 2 hours a day
- Situate the home computer in a central room accessible to all members of the family; refrain from allowing the use of any internet-connected device in bedrooms, both to monitor content and time use and to prevent sleep disorder.
- For young children, select media that possess a slow change rate of screen content, such as storytelling and children’s performance programs, arts and crafts activities, games that require thinking and logic, and relatively older movies which possess fewer stimuli than new ones.
- Be sure to ergonomically structure the computer/device workspace environment (e.g., adjust the height of the chair, table, screen, etc.)
- Create a “device free” space in your home, such as in the kitchen or at the dinner table.
- Refrain from depending on multimedia as a babysitter.
- Encourage sports and cultural activities that are not computer/device based.
Recommendations to Reduce Damage to the Eyes
- Reduce screen brightness
- Take scheduled breaks
- Use proper lighting
- Wear glasses as needed
Radiation from Mobile Devices
Though research is not fully conclusive, there exist concerns about the harm of radiation emitted by electronics and wireless communications devices. It is wise to take precautions by initiating breaks, by minimizing the use of cellphone/Wi-Fi devices close to the body, by distancing Wi-Fi modems from users, and by sufficiently ventilating the room in which a Wi-Fi device is situated.
Be curious about this phenomenon. Take action on how you can reduce screen time for the health of yourself as well as your family. This has been an article based on the five foundations of health developed at Friends and Family Health Centers. If you are looking for a partner in regaining your health, or just want to maintain your health in a better way, please schedule an appointment with Friends and Family Health Centers by clicking here. Our services include chiropractic care, car accident injury care, nutritional consultation, and muscle manipulation