HEALTHY LIVING — Time to lower the dose on YOUR tech addiction

Published 12:02 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Every time I go to the grocery store, I see multiple toddlers watching cartoons on mom’s smart phones.

On one hand, these children are totally occupied, quiet and mom was able to get her shopping done. But the bigger picture is the toddlers are very proficient with the operation of the phone — I admit I am just the tiniest bit jealous of their skills — but this lets me know they spend quite a bit of time using electronic media.

A large segment of society has become addicted to their smart phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices. ZOOM meetings and remote learning, somewhat by necessity, are the norm now.

However, go out to eat and you will frequently see folks in the now traditional chin to chest position, checking their email or surfing the web. They are found at the family dining table doing the same, just as often.

Family movie night?

The family often has a phone in hand, quickly scanning the screen for the latest posts. Kids get home from school, grab a snack and hit the sofa with their device of choice and play games or chat online with friends.

Folks, it is time to disconnect, take a break.

Hold your head up and look around. Talk. Get to know your family and friends, again.

Our cell phones and tablets have transformed the way we hold our bodies — and not for the better. Looking down at your device is like having a 60-pound weight on your neck, according to a spine surgeon. That’s like having an eight-year-old sitting on your head while you’re standing trying to read your text messages.

As you might expect, moving your head forward and having that amount of force on your neck and spine isn’t good for your health — and the average person spends two to four hours a day in this position.

Good posture is having your ears aligned with the shoulders and your shoulder blades back. This lowers body stress and decreases cortisol.

Poor posture, on the other hand, stresses the spine and can lead to early wear, tear, generation and maybe surgery. That is just the physical effects.

The psychological effects on children include higher rates of obesity. It’s related to marketing, via videos, foods that contribute to obesity — for example, sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food.

Children also tend to be inactive during that time, but it’s the food marketing that drives most of this relationship. The experimental studies, including randomized trials, documenting this relationship continue to grow, and it is very clear you can reduce viewing time and improve health outcomes.

And we have not even discussed the fact they aren’t getting any fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.

Research has also been done on the use of other types of screens. The most recent study looked at children who have access to small screens — for example, a smartphone.

Children with access to small screens had less sleep. The mechanism is simply that the screens tend to keep kids up at night.

Beyond the health effects, more than anything else when children are young, they need to spend time with real people: other children and adults, developing social skills and relationships.

I am very interested in helping parents lower the dose — not to ban technology, but just lower the dose so children don’t spend their entire days with televisions, tablets, computers, video games and smartphones.

Parents are often reluctant to intervene and limit their children’s screen use because they believe they will have to monitor what the kids are doing, figure out when the time is up, and then convince the child to end the activity.

Not to mention, that might entail the parent having to limit his or her own usage.

So, take a time out from the electronic devices and reconnect with family and friends. Talk. Move. Expand your horizons. Chin up, look around at what you have been missing. Stay healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for Orange Newsmedia. She can be reached at