The dangers of being plugged in

 From texting to homework, it’s near impossible to pull a Tolog away from her phone or computer to interact with people face to face, much less do chores or go outside. 

“I probably spend about six hours a day on technology due to all the work we have on our laptops,” says junior Allison Pieroni.

While technology has changed the planet, many consequences can arise from overuse. A U.S. News & World Report study found that each additional hour of technology use increases the chances of children developing pain in their hands and wrists by as much as 50%. Indeed, “text claw” is used to describe that feeling of soreness and cramping in the fingers, wrist and forearm when someone has been typing or texting for an extended amount of time.

Jeannie Finley, academic technology and library services director, says that preventing distraction is not about spending less time on technology, but rather about trying to focus during the time spent using it. 

“Be aware of the ‘brain candy’ websites, those that can suck you in and cause you to spend hours upon hours on them. They don’t do anything for you,” says  Finley. 

Most doctors recommend that teens take a break from technology every two hours. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is estimated that children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of seven hours a day behind screens. Because of technology, children are spending increasingly less time outside, which can increase their risk of obesity in adult life. Science Daily notes that 61% of obese boys and 63% of obese girls reported watching television for two or more hours each day, in addition to the time already spent texting or playing video games. 

A 2010 Pew Research study discovered that four out of five teenagers sleep with their cell phones on or near their beds, while a researchers from JFK Medical Center found that teenagers send an average of 34 text messages after going to bed. Sleeping next to a cell phone can actually disturb the sleep cycle, as the glow from the device “wakes up the brain.” The brain cannot differentiate between the sun and a light bulb, according to Michael Decker, sleep specialist and associate professor at Case Western School of Nursing. 

This loss of sleep can lead to an increase in irritability and development of poor social skills in teens. Memory can be affected, causing academic performance to decrease. The National Sleep Foundation states that teens need about 9.25 hours of sleep each night to function properly, though 15% reported sleeping less than that on school nights. Psychoanalyst Dr. Suzanne Phillips suggests charging phones in another room to increase the amount of sleep. 

“When I use my phone before bed, I often lose track of time and I am up for much longer than I anticipated. That means I get much less sleep and that makes going to school much harder,” acknowledges senior Lilly Widen. 

Additionally, staring into a light bulb for hours on end can cause eye damage, such as nearsightedness. While on the computer, users should sift their focus away from the screen every 20 minutes and take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away, as recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. 

“Let electronic communication go for a while, and take a break during passing periods, break and lunch. Have a snack, talk to your friends. It’s important that students realize that electronic connections with people are not as powerful as real-life connections,” says Finley.

—Cailynn Knabenshue