RUINING YOUR EYES
If your eyes feel sore after staring at your phone, you should know that focusing on a small object for a long time can cause dry eyes, which can lead to inflammation and infection. Allon Barsam, a consultant opthalmic surgeon at Luton & Dunstable University Hospital, says it is possible that youngsters who stare at screens all day could be near-sighted as they grow up. There’s also research to suggest that using smartphones could leave us needing glasses sooner.
The solution: Enlarge the size of the text on your phone, and to avoid glare, try to use your phone in a well-lit room and don’t use it for more than 15 minutes at a time.
SQUASHING THE SPINE
Our smartphones are changing our posture. ‘Our bodies are a product of what we do on a daily basis,’ says Kirsten Lord, a chartered physiotherapist.
“I now see far more people with pain in their neck or shoulders. We tend to poke our heads forward when we’re reading something on a phone or tablet. This position squashes the top of your spine and compresses the nerves that go up to your head.
The result can be headaches and feeling tired and stiff.”
The solution: Invest in a hands-free kit. Kirsten also advises trying exercises to lengthen your neck muscles, such as imagining a string pulling you up from the middle of your head to help you improve your posture.
GIVING YOU SAGGY JOWLS
Excessive phone use could change the definition of your jawline. “I’ve seen an increase in the number of women in their 30s concerned about weakness in the lower third of their face,” says cosmetic dermatologist, Dr Sam Bunting.
“As we age, our skin’s elasticity decreases and it’s feasible that bending our neck forward for hours on end to look at smartphones and tablets may mean there is more of a downwards tug on the delicate skin.”
The solution: Try holding your phone or tablet straight out in front of you, rather than below chest level, so you’re not constantly looking downwards.
Considering how hot phone screens get after a long call, it’s no surprise that some experts are concerned they can give you pimples or sweat rash. A magazine carried out tests on a sample of 30 mobile phones and discovered that, on average, a handset had 18 times more harmful germs on it than the flush handle in a men’s lavatory.
The solution: If you’re prone to spots, use a hands-free kit and wipe your phone with a saline solution.
DAMAGING YOUR HEARING
“Playing music through headphones too loud can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can make it difficult to hear speech, especially when there’s background noise,” says Karen Finch, of the Hearing Care Centre in Ipswich.
She adds, “Many standard-issue headphones don’t fit the ear properly resulting in a leakage of sound, so we feel we have to turn up the volume.”
The solution: Bespoke headphones, but even then, always keep sound levels as low as you can and don’t listen for too long.
STOPPING YOU SLEEPING
Computers, laptops, tablets and phones tend to give off a blue light, thought to interfere with the natural hormones, such as melatonin, which help us to sleep.
The solution: Research from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona suggests that dimming the brightness settings on your phone and holding it at least 14 inches from your face while using it will reduce its potential to impede sleep. Better yet, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and leave your phone outside your bedroom at night.
We might think our phones facilitate communication, but studies suggest otherwise. ‘Technology can make it hard to manage boundaries in our lives,’ says Dr Emma Short, a psychologist at the University of Bedfordshire.
‘So if we’re on our phone, we don’t give our full attention to those we’re physically with. Research also suggests the more engaged we are in social networks, the more lonely we can become as family, friends and work relationships suffer.’
The solution: Have a strict rule that there will be no phones at the dinner table or when you’re out socially.