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Mobile phones are a necessity in this day and age, but using them too much can negatively impact your health in different ways. A lot of people spend most of their waking hours staring at a mobile screen, which has a detrimental effect on both the mind and body. (1)
Almost 97% of Americans own some type of mobile phone. In 2011, only 35% of Americans owned a smartphone according to the Pew Research Center, but this figure has gone up to 85% today. (2)
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of India revealed that India has over 1.2 billion mobile phone users and 600 million smartphone users. (3)
This article will share some major drawbacks of overusing cell phones, which should alert you to fix this bad habit as soon as possible.
Reasons to Avoid Mobile Overuse
Excessive use of mobile phones can harm you in the following ways.
1. Disrupts sleep quality
Several studies have shown that cell phone overuse can significantly hamper a person’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, especially when done close to bedtime.
Mobile screens release a blue light that inhibits the production of a hormone called melatonin, which is responsible for inducing sleep. Plus, cell phone use overstimulates the mind, which drives away slumber.
Spending too much time on the phone regularly can trigger sleeping difficulties that may eventually lead to insomnia or other sleep disorders. (4)
You need 7–8 hours of restful sleep to allow your mind and body to repair and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, will leave you drowsy, tired, inattentive, and restless the next day, which will compromise your ability to accomplish the most basic tasks. (5)
2. Increases risks of cancer/tumors
Wireless devices such as mobile phones release radiofrequency (RF) energy that is absorbed by the body. There are concerns that excessive exposure to this radiation may damage DNA over time and increase the risk of cancer, but there isn’t much evidence to establish a direct causal relationship between the two. (6)
One 2020 study found that a cumulative call time of over 1,000 hours can make you prone to tumors, but more extensive research is needed to ascertain the legitimacy of this claim. (7)
The radiofrequency waves emitted by mobile phones are too low powered to cause any real harm, but this threat cannot be dismissed altogether.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), mobile phone use could be associated with some risk of cancer, which needs to be verified by more large-scale trials.
Nevertheless, you should err on the side of caution to safeguard your health. Minimize radiofrequency exposure by limiting exposure to it, including using an earpiece and restricting cell phone use, particularly among children. (8)
3. Increases accident risk
People who are constantly on their cell phones tend to be easily distracted and therefore more prone to accidents.
Chronic usage of mobile phones can shorten your attention span and dwindle your ability to focus on the task at hand.
This is particularly dangerous if you are using your mobile phone while driving or walking as you keep switching between the screen and the road ahead. A lot of automobile accidents are caused by this, which makes it a threat to you as well as others in the vicinity. (9)
4. Leads to hearing loss
Your mobile phones give off certain radiation that can impair your hearing after prolonged exposure.
A 2013 study found that consistently using your mobile phone for more than 2 hours a day resulted in a minimal hearing loss of 5–15 dB. (10)
Another 2014 study showed that mobile phone overuse caused diminished hearing in the dominant ear compared to the nondominant ear. (11)
5. Causes eye damage
Prolonged exposure to the blue light emitted by mobile screens can damage your retina and weaken your eyesight over time.
Moreover, staring at a smartphone for long hours reduces blinking, which leaves your eyes dry, tired, heavy, and painful. The eye strain may even trigger headaches. (12)
Preventive Tips to Limit Exposure to Mobile Phone Radiation
- Limit your overall usage of mobile phones.
- Keep your phone calls short.
- Use an earpiece to take calls.
- Don’t carry your mobile in your pocket or close to your body all the time.
- Keep your mobile phones away from your pillow when sleeping.
- Decide for yourself whether you really need to be on your mobile phone all day or it has become an addiction, and then take the necessary steps to control compulsive usage.
- Limit your child’s mobile phone use to only essential purposes such as school-related activities.
- Buy your mobile phone from a shop that will provide its specific absorption rate (SAR), which indicates the amount of radio wave energy released from the device that gets absorbed into the body. It is vital to know this information before making the purchase.
- If you have a pacemaker, be extra cautious regarding mobile phone usage and minimize it as much as possible.
Addiction and Other Effects of Screen Time on Kids
Children have highly impressionable minds and they imitate what adults around them are doing. If their parents and elders are constantly on their phones throughout the day, they will pick up the same habit. So, it is the responsibility of adults to set a good example for the kids around them.
However, the opposite is happening. People have started using mobile phones as an easy distraction to keep their child occupied or entertained. Even toddlers as young as 1–2 years old are shown a mobile screen as a means to allay their crying fits and tantrums while adults go about their busy schedules.
This may seem convenient, but it is actually quite problematic and eventually can make the child addicted to mobile phones. Once the child becomes used to the dynamic and colorful images displayed on cell phones, they will fail to get interested in hard copies of any book.
Plus, kids who have easy access to mobile phones often suffer from attention-deficit disorder, which hampers their ability to focus.
One study found that the prevalence of problematic mobile phone use was found to be 6.3% in the overall population (6.1% among boys and 6.5% among girls), and another study found it to be 16% among adolescents.
The study found that excessive use of mobile phones was associated with:
- Staying up late at night
- Impaired parent-child relationship
- Impaired school relationships
- Psychological problems such as behavioral addiction including compulsive buying and pathological gambling, low mood, tension and anxiety, and leisure boredom
- Behavioral problems, the most pronounced association being hyperactivity, conduct problems, and emotional symptoms
Another psychological downside of excessive exposure to gadgets is the false sense of ego. Youngsters derive a sense of self-worth from owning expensive phones.
Instead of investing trust in their personality and qualification, they feel these gadgets will fetch them respect. And if they are taken away from these gadgets, especially by parents, an emotional vacuum overwhelms them. (13)
There is no denying the fact that smartphones make people’s lives easier. They keep people connected, informed, and well organized. However, all these advantages should not blind you to the health risks associated with mobile overuse.
The growing concerns regarding the harmful effects of blue light and radiofrequency radiation emitted from cellular devices are not completely unwarranted, but more research needs to be conducted to determine how valid they truly are.