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June 24th, 2019
Healthy Lifestyles

techtimeComputers, tablets, smartphones, and gaming systems have revolutionized popular culture and the way people engage with one another. Devices also have transformed the way people live in their homes.

Cisco’s annual visual networking index forecast indicates there will be four networked devices and connections per person globally by 2020. In North America, there will be 13 networked devices and connections per person by that time. As more people are connected to tech than ever before, many wonder if there’s a healthy amount of time to spend on their devices?

“Screen time” is defined as the amount of time spent each day using devices with screens, such as TVs, gaming consoles, smartphones, and tablets. Although how much screen time people engage in is entirely up to them, there are health risks associated with excessive screen time. 

People may not realize just how much screen time they engage in each day. Nielsen reports that American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to, or simply interacting with media, which is up from nine hours, 32 minutes just four years ago. Common Sense Media’s 2017 report shows American children age eight and under use screens for an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes per day. That time increases as kids age.

In terms of healthy screen time limits, the experts have weighed in.

The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that children under 18 months should avoid screen time, other than video chatting. Ages 18 months to two years can use high-quality programs or apps if adults participate with them. Children between the ages of two and five should limit daily screen time to an hour; age six and up should follow consistently imposed limits.

Doctors may be hesitant to prescribe screen limits for adults. But people can use certain health clues to determine if it’s time to cut back. If screens (and their blue light) are adversely affecting sleep, reducing screen time might be necessary to avoid negative side effects. Screen time should not come at the expense of physical activity, as that can contribute to obesity. People are urged to take frequent breaks from screens to mitigate potential eye strain and headaches.

The Department of Health Government of Western Australia recommends adults age 18 and older minimize time spent sitting or lying looking at screens, and to break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

People who routinely use screens for hours each day should weigh the benefits and detriments to the amount of time spent with devices and tailor their usage accordingly.

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healthygamingGaming continues to grow in popularity, and with new ways to engage in social or individual game play available thanks to various technological devices, the frequency with which gamers engage in these recreational pursuits only increases. In fact, a 2018 report by Limelight Networks found that gamers spend an average of 5.96 hours each week playing games. 

Excessive gaming can pose a threat to gamers’ overall health. The following physical and mental wellness tips can help gamers ensure they get to play without sacrificing their health.

  • • Remember to blink. Staring at screens for long periods of time can cause serious eye strain. Sometimes, when immersed in the intensity of game play, a gamer may forget to blink his or her eyes, and this can lead to tired, dry eyes. As with other screen usage, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Per the Canadian Association of Optometrists, every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.
  • • Take frequent breaks. Gamers should get up out of their seats and take breaks at regular intervals. This gives their eyes and ears a rest and allows them to stretch and reset their posture. Sitting for long periods of time can affect circulation and have adverse effects on the neck and spine as well. 
  • • Get some fresh air. Individuals should use break opportunities to go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine, if possible. The light and the clean air can improve energy levels and possibly help restore focus when it comes time to return to the game. Spending too many consecutive hours in a dark room can impact the brain and may affect how people learn, according to research led by Michigan State neuroscientists. Dim lights can make it hard to retain memories, while bright light boosts information retention and mood.
  • • Stretch hands and wrists. Maintaining overall good posture and stretching hands and wrists can offset complications of carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that can affect mobility in the wrists and lead to inflammation and pain. 
  • • Recognize addiction. People can get addicted to gaming just as they would to any other activity or substance. Novelty addiction is prolonged time spent on video games, the internet or smartphones. Research indicates these novelties can trigger various psychological responses in the brain, and people grow accustomed to chasing those triggers. Incorporate other activities into one’s day so that gaming is not the end-all.

People can enjoy gaming in a safe and healthy way by incorporating various wellness strategies into their gaming routines. 

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sanitizemobilephoneThe most germ-addled item in your home may not be the toilet or the kitchen sponge. Mobile phones pick up bacteria wherever they go. In addition, users touch their phones an average of 47 times a day according to the national average determined by a Deloitte research survey, introducing new contaminants to the device each time they do so. 

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than many toilet seats, and there may be as many as 17,000 bacterial gene copies on the average high-schooler’s phone.

While cell phone safety often focuses on protecting data, smartphone users also should consider keeping their phones clean to remove the potentially harmful microbes that accumulate on phones every day.

Avoid excess moisture when cleaning cell phones, advises the home and lifestyle experts at The Spruce as moisture can damage internal components. Most cell phone screens have an oleophobic coating that repels oils from hands and fingers. Harsh cleansers or abrasive materials on the glass can prematurely remove this coating and/or scratch the surface. 

While you clean at your own risk, many tech experts suggest a spray mixture of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol applied to a microfiber cloth to remove surface contaminants. Don’t directly wet the phone. There also are pre-packaged cleansers sold for electronics usage. Invest in an antimicrobial cover to provide an added layer of protection for the phone. 

Other ways to keep a phone clean are to wash your hands before use and to try to keep the phone away from areas that may be vulnerable to germs, such as bathrooms. 

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