Side effects of cell phones and tips to control its use

Using your smartphone too much can cause a variety of issues and could have a negative effect on your health. Learn what the issues are, how to prevent them and how to spend less time on your phone.

Woman sits at a table using her cell phone.

Smartphones have revolutionized how we communicate, how we relate to each other, and overall, have made a lot of things more convenient. In addition to the issues of distracted driving and texting while walking, too much screen time could have a negative effect on your health.

What are negative effects of cell phones?

  • "Text neck." Looking down at your phone for several hours a day can put serious pressure on your neck. Thanks to gravity, tilting your head forward can exert a force on your spine between 50 and 60 pounds.
  • Poor sleep. Not only does excessive smartphone use keep you mentally engaged late into the evening, the "blue" light from the screen can actually interfere with your ability to fall asleep and may increase your chances of insomnia.
  • Tendinitis. Too much typing may cause tendons in your thumbs to become inflamed and sore.
  • Distracted traveling. Using your smartphone while driving can result in a serious accident, while distracted walking can lead to injury. If you're commuting via public transit, looking down at your phone could cause you to miss your bus or train stop.
  • Relationships. Overuse of cell phones can act as a barrier to quality interactions and conversations, leading to decreased satisfaction in our relationships. Excessive device use can lead to feelings of being disconnected when we spend time with friends and family.
  • Concentration and learning issues. Wanting to check your smartphone all the time may affect concentration and distract you when you are in a class or work environment.
  • Less physical activity. By having access to food and entertainment at your fingertips, you might inadvertently be less active, which may affect your health in the long run.
  • Eyesight problems. Watching the screen of your cell phone all the time may have a negative effect on your health as all screens emit a blue light that can be damaging to the human eyes.
  • Lack of personal communication. Texting and instant messages can replace your need to communicate with others via phone call or in person.
  • Peer pressure. Kids may feel pressured into getting the latest devices in order to feel accepted in their peer circle.

Ways to avoid negative effects from cell phones

  • Bring your phone up to eye level. Instead of hunching over to look at your phone, bring your phone up so you can look at it without bending your neck. You also can set reminders to stretch your neck if it starts to feel stiff or sore.
  • Use voice-assisted features. If your thumbs start to cramp mid-email, take a break. Try using your smartphone's voice dictation feature to write text messages and emails, or put less stress on your hands by using your phone on a flat surface.
  • Store your phone out of sight. Keep your phone stowed in the passenger-side glove compartment or your pocket while you're out and about. No text message or social media post is worth your life — or someone else's.

How to use your phone less

  • Use alarms. Set an alarm for 30 to 60 minutes before you want to go to bed, then commit to charging your phone or tablet in the other room, not on your bedside table. Creating the habit of leaving your device out of the bedroom may be helpful when you are trying to wind down at night or when getting ready in the morning.
  • Set aside "phone free" time. Make it a priority to spend quality time with friends and family without your cell phone. Outside of device-free time, silencing your phone during meals and during face-to-face time is a good habit to cut back on overall usage.
  • Track your cell phone use time. Different smartphones have features for screen time tracking. You may do this exercise for a short period of time. Learn how much time you spend on the device on a regular basis and decide if it is time to limit your smartphone usage.
  • Delete unused apps. Sometimes we add apps to learn a new language or play a new game and we don’t use them as much or at all. Deleting those apps not only frees up space on your phone, but also removes the opportunity of spending more time on it.
  • Manage notifications. Consider turning off notifications from different apps, so you don’t spend extra time reviewing the latest comment on social media or a sale going on at an online store. Sometimes checking the notification will lead to spending more time on your phone and will keep you from other things you were originally doing.
  • Have rules for family and friends. Now that phones are part of daily life, we may tend to check apps or respond to a quick text while we are at dinner or in a social setting. Having basic rules when you spend time with your kids, family and friends may help increase your quality time with them.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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