With the holidays coming, I’m willing to bet that most teens and tweens will be getting at least one, if not more, digital or technology gifts. While most digital gifts have many benefits (I even wrote a book about the benefits of video games) there is one potential danger we don’t often think about. Are there new health problems stemming from the use of so much technology?
Here is a guest post from Sophia Ruan Gushée, the author of a book on reducing our toxic exposure (more info on book and author below)
5 Tips to Digitally Detox
Due to technology, our access to music, entertainment, information, and to each other has improved dramatically over the last few decades. Internet access and electronic devices have offered so much value, however, that those 8 to 18 years old spend approximately 9.5 hours per day with electronic devices, according to a national study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Too much of a good thing has consequences though. For example, researchers studying health effects found that blue light from technology screens can disrupt sleep, and electromagnetic fields from electronics may contribute to various adverse health effects (including DNA damage, reproductive issues, and neurotoxicity). Furthermore, all that exposure to electronic media can contribute to obesity, negatively influence your brain (which is still developing until age 20), and develop unhealthy habits that are hard to break.
To create healthier balance, consider the tips below:
- Detox your bedroom. Electronics—even cordless phones and electric alarm clocks—emit electromagnetic fields (or EMFs) that may burden your health. Since EMFs are relatively new, and diseases take decades to manifest, conclusions need more time. Meanwhile, governments are recognizing that vulnerabilities vary and some—such as those in France, Canada, and Australia—have taken measures to limit children’s EMF exposures. In your bedroom, minimize the electronics, especially near your bed. Turn WiFi and other devices off at night. If you can’t, keep WiFi devices in airplane mode.
- Create mini detoxes. Increased screen time can decrease human connections, disrupt sleep, weaken memory, reduce empathy, worsen posture, deteriorate eye health, and impair cardiac and nervous systems. Take mini detoxes for an hour or more each day. During this time, move your body in fresh air: bike, walk, jog, or play a sport. Even better, walk barefoot on grass or the beach: Electrons from the Earth may help boost immunity and fight inflammation.
- Create more distance. EMF exposure decreases with distance from the emitting source. So reduce your exposures by creating distance between you and the source.
- From cell phones, text is best. (Don’t text while driving, or during class.) When you must speak, use speakerphone or headphones with built-in microphones to create distance from your brain (Bluetooth can emit EMFs too). Keep phone calls short. And avoid keeping cellphones in your pockets since they emit EMFs even when not in use.
- While using a laptop, avoid having it on your lap, and remember that EMFs will be much higher if it is plugged into an electrical outlet.
- Practice mindfulness. Using electronics, and especially social media, can increase anxiety, loneliness, and depression. While a trained medical professional is sometimes needed, electronics and social media can make you feel worse. So limit your exposure, and notice how you feel after you’ve spent more time enjoying the offline world. Consider when being on your electronics is truly necessary: While electronics are sometimes necessary for work and productivity, we can limit usage for when we are bored, or because it’s habit.
- Give technology a bedtime that’s at least an hour before yours. Blue light from electronic screens can hinder sleep by disrupting circadian rhythms, and suppressing melatonin. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical school has linked insufficient sleep with poor memory, poor judgment, and higher risk of chronic disease. Other experts linked poor sleep with cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Conversely, more sleep can help your academic scores (including SAT scores) and decrease driving accidents!
Sophia Ruan Gushée is the author of A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures. New York Times bestselling author Frank Lipman MD described it as “a great guide for people to reduce their toxic exposures from consumer products.” A to Z of D-Toxing is on sale at Amazon through December 24, 2015.