Computers have revolutionized our lives. From sharing photos on our phones to creating reports on our PCs, digital technology has been a blessing for millions.
But like anything else, time at a computer can become too much of a good thing. And if you spend long periods of time staring at the screen, your health might be at risk.
Following are five ways computers can damage your health.
1. Reduced sleep
As day turns to night, our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin that makes us sleepy. Exposure to blue light – the type emitted from computer screens and cellphones – can cause the brain to stop producing melatonin.
So, if you find yourself tossing and turning, stay away from computer screens before bedtime. Another solution is to install an app that will filter out blue light from your computer screen. Examples include f.lux and Twilight.
2. Vision problems
If you are of a certain age, you probably remember Mom fretting about the potential damage all that TV time was doing to your eyeballs.
In the modern world, both kids and adults are more likely to be glued to the screens of their phones, tablets and laptops.
All that screen time can lead to eye strain, says Dr. Rahul Khurana, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“Blinking keeps our eyes moist,” he says. “A normal person blinks about 15 times a minute.”
However, studies have found that when people stare at screens, their blink rate goes down considerably, putting you at risk of eye strain. Symptoms include:
- Sore or irritated eyes
- Trouble focusing
- Blurred or double vision
“You can help minimize this by taking regular, conscious breaks from devices,” Khurana says. “Ophthalmologists call this the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.”
3. Neck and shoulder problems
Many of us spend eight hours a day – or more – working at our computers. In fact, regular computer users perform somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 keystrokes per day, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
All of that time hunched over your keyboard and craning your neck toward your computer screen can result in damage to your nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
To prevent such damage, the AAOS recommends:
- Setting up your work station properly
- Maintaining good posture
- Taking frequent breaks from your work
4. Increased obesity in kids
Obesity among children is epidemic. Among Americans ages 2 to 19, about 17 percent are obese, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All that time in front of a computer doesn’t help.
Several studies suggest excessive screen time is linked with childhood obesity, says Sarah Muntel, a registered dietitian and bariatric coordinator at Community Health Network in Indianapolis.
The CDC recommends that kids get at least 60 minutes of activity each day. Modeling the right behavior can help lure kids away from the computer screen, Muntel says.
"If you are on your tablet or phone, so will your child," she says. "Be active with your child. Go on a family walk, play kickball outside or find active activities your child enjoys."
5. Mental health issues
Too much time spent with computers, tablets and smartphones might lead to a greater risk of depression and suicidal thoughts among teens, according to a 2017 study published in Clinical Psychological Science. The problem is especially pronounced for girls, the study found.
Other studies have reached similar conclusions. So, limiting computer time might be wise.
Remember, there is a big world out there just waiting for you to discover it.