The cell phone is one piece of technology that is nearly required in order to function in the modern world. Since the mid-1990s, cell phones have become increasingly popular among everyone to the point where the ownership of a cell phone or smartphone is considered the norm. Despite their widespread use, there are still some concerns as to what kind of effects cell phones might have on the brain and lifestyle of the user.
Once the text message became a popular communication tool, people of all ages began to utilize it frequently. While its simplicity and convenience make it ideal for relaying a message to someone without having to carry on a whole conversation, it is not without its drawbacks. Studies have found that some people experience a degenerative neck condition caused by looking down at their cell phones. The angle at which the human head sits while looking downward, produces up to 60 pounds of pressure on the neck as opposed to the usual 12 pounds while looking straight ahead. This condition is colloquially referred to as “text neck” and can cause neck pain and long-term damage.
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While the prolonged use of cell phones can cause some minor physical ailments, the mental effects of cell phone use are much more serious. In regards to mental health, a study at Kent State University has shown that college students who use their smartphones more frequently than others tend to be less happy and have lower GPAs and higher anxiety compared to their peers. Another study conducted by the same researchers found that frequent cell phone users often felt more stressed, anxious, and uptight during their leisure time. The researchers believe that some of these effects can be curbed simply by taking short breaks from cell phone use.
Negative psychological effects are certainly no laughing matter, but they are not the only way in which cell phones affect the brain. Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted a study with 47 participants, having them hold cell phones to their ears for 50 minutes. The phones were muted in order to rule out brain activity related to speech or listening. After the 50 minutes were up, each participant had their brain scanned. Within these scans, the researchers found that there was a significant change in brain activity in the area of the brain closest to the cell phone antenna. While these results did not prove that cell phones are harmful, they did show that the human brain is sensitive to the electromagnetic radiation being emitted by the phones. Although the long-term effects of this radiation are still not known, they are a potential area of future study.
Impact on children
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of cell phone use is its effect on small children. The researchers who carried out the brain scan study raised the concern that children might be even more affected by electromagnetic radiation than adults because their scalps and skulls are thinner. Since there is no evidence that this radiation is harmful, it is not currently a cause for alarm. However, there are major concerns that the use of smartphones by small children might have detrimental effects on their cognitive development.
Researchers believe that smartphones use can hinder a child’s ability to learn self-regulation. Since smartphones are often used to distract or calm children down, there are concerns that this tactic may be impeding their social-emotional development by not allowing them to develop their own internal calming mechanisms.
Additionally, researchers have found that frequent use of smartphones by small children can impair their math and science related skills while increasing their literacy skills. Because of this, it is believed that smartphones and similar devices can be helpful learning tools for school-age children while being detrimental to children under 30 months old. Children at this age benefit more from human interaction than from electronic devices and videos.
How to avoid it?
We can’t know for sure how cell phone use affects the human brain in the long term, but there is a great deal of evidence showing that cell phone use can be detrimental to mental and physical health in adults and emotional development in children. There is a text neck app that could help you avoid bad postures while using your mobile phone, but the reality is that the pure and only way to lessen all these negative effects, is by simply restraining from cell phone use. Taking frequent breaks from cell phone use can keep a person happier and less anxious and can help alleviate neck pain. Try turning off your phone one day a week and enjoy the benefits of being unplugged, or go on a yoga retreat and completely disconnect for a few days.
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