LOOK UP: Your health depends on it!

Local News | 10/19/2016 |

 From nearsightedness to carpal tunnel, the longterm effects of personal tech use aren’t pretty.
From nearsightedness to carpal tunnel, the longterm effects of personal tech use aren’t pretty.

Population in need of a new kind of tech support

By Karen Ortner

With Google, Wikipedia and boundless internet resources at your fingertips, and games, entertainment and social media just a click away, it’s easy to see why adults and children alike are increasingly absorbed by the virtual world more than reality.

While it’s common to hear concern of the social changes brought on by always being online — distraction and inappropriate body language in face-to-face interactions and lack of boundaries in sharing private information, for example — fewer are talking about the physical toll taken by constant electronic device use.

In an age referring to young people as “digital natives,” it’s starting at younger ages than ever before.

A 2015 Pew Research Center study showed that 73 percent of teens use smart phones. Some surveys show age 10 as the average age children receive their first cellphone ­— other sources claim it’s as young as 6.

Either way, it may be time to stop protesting flashing, noisy children’s toys. Kids are graduating all too soon to toys with consequences more serious than a parent’s headache.


Some sources describe it as a “near-point world,” due to the amount of time spent looking at computers, tablets and phone screens. In addition, children in particular are very adaptable, as they are still developing. Their young visual systems are still being trained as to what is “normal.”

In the 1970s, about 25 percent of the population was nearsighted. Today, it’s estimated that over 40 percent of Americans are nearsighted. It’s not hard to guess the distance that many Americans are spending the most time focusing.

Digital screens also emit high amounts of something called “blue light” on the light spectrum. Blue light is a high-energy light that is found everywhere, naturally and artificially, but unlike its higher-energy cousin ultraviolet light, it is not naturally filtered from reaching the back of the eye very effectively.

Some eye doctors worry about the effects of having so much so close so often. Ongoing studies are examining the cumulative effects of blue light, especially a possible link to macular degeneration.

Another eye-related electronic device woe is “digital eye strain,” the term for tired, itchy or burning eyes from too much screen time. Fortunately, this one is not cumulative, and can be dealt with simply by taking breaks to look at something real once in a while.

Wrists and thumbs

Eyes aren’t the only parts of the body suffering in the digital age. While less common in children, “texting thumb” and carpal tunnel are also high on the list of device-related complaints.

The painful popping or snapping of a person’s thumb when it’s bent or straightened could be trigger thumb, which is now often called “texting thumb” for obvious reasons. It results from the repetitive strain from the same repeated thumb motion, and can even lead to the thumb becoming locked in the curled texting position.

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