For Leigh Fazzina, her mobile phone and Twitter account possibly saved her life. During the cycling portion of a triathlon, she hit a tree root and fell off her bike and rolled. Although her mobile phone did not have a signal to call for help, she nonetheless was able to Tweet what happened along with her location. Help soon arrived.
Technology was intended to support our lives. However, there are some concerns about our mobile phones that we need to be aware of in order to make wise decisions and minimize harms that this piece of technology may pose.
1. Mobile phones carry 18 times more bacteria than a public restroom toilet handle! In fact, studies have shown that they are often contaminated with flu and common cold viruses as well as staph infections, E. coli, and meningitis bugs. What the reason is behind this Petri dish phenomenon: germs love warm places. Our phones, face, and hands generate heat; together they are a perfect storm to breed pestilence. Some tips to prevent us from literally coming face-to-face
with these germs include:
—Leave our phones in our purses, pockets, or desks when using the restroom. There is no need to use them while taking care of “business.”
—Wash our hands appropriately after using the restroom.
—Clean our phones with specialized anti-bacterial wipes that are non-corrosive and non-streaking. Additionally, use a cotton swab to get the dirt out of the nooks and crannies.
—Consider a mobile phone cover that can be removed to be cleaned.
2. The brain cancer-mobile phone concern. Studies have not been able to reliably link the two. And the increased numbers of brain tumors we are seeing are more likely related to increased access to medical care and improvements in diagnostic imaging. However, it may be possible that not enough time has passed to determine if the increase in brain cancer rates are directly attributable to our mobile phones. Some tips to protect ourselves while the jury is out:
—Use hands-free devices or a speakerphone to decrease the “radiation” that may cause harm. When possible, use a landline for conversations.
—Do not sleep with our mobile phones under our pillows.
3. Sleep disturbances. When it is time to get our ZZZ’s, power down our phones.
—Late night beeps and dings and messages that are stressful or emotional can throw a wrench in our slumber, including lost sleep, difficulty falling asleep, poor sleep quality, or daytime sleepiness.
—Additionally, the light from the screen can suppress melatonin levels, the sleep hormone that our body produces. All forms of light—from sunlight to television to lamps to computers to mobile phone screens—have this effect.
4. Motor vehicle deaths and accidents. Texting while driving has been estimated to cause 200,000 collisions a year. Sadly, it is currently contributing to the distractions and leading cause of death of our
American teen drivers. The answer is to never text — or engage with your mobile phone — while driving. Be responsible as well as a great example and do not get distracted by your phone. Along with being a good example, talk to our kids about it.
5. “Text neck.” This term was coined to describe neck and shoulder pain we may encounter because of the position we assume while texting, emailing, or surfing the web. Our head weighs 10 pounds when in the neutral position (ears are over our shoulders). However, for every inch that we tilt our head forward, the pressure on our spine doubles!
It is possible that our necks will be supporting 20-30 pounds of weight if we are using our cell phones in our lap. This can lead to muscle strain, disc herniation, and pinched nerves, as well as flatten the natural curve of our neck. Some tips:
—Be aware of our body. Keep our feet flat on the floor, roll our shoulders back and keep our ears directly over them so our head is not tilted forward.
—Keep our phones at eye level.
6. Mobile phones can become a barrier to communication. While this sounds like an oxymoron, texting has become a primary means for our kids to communicate. A teen sends out an average of 60 text messages a day (I honestly would have guessed it was more). Text messaging cannot convey tones of voice or reactions. This removes the skill of deciphering and contemplating innuendos or body language responses. In some cases, it supports saying whatever comes to our minds… without constraint. Additionally it can wreak havoc on our kid’s grammar and spelling aptitude. Some tips: talk to our children and make them put their phones away at dinner time or other specified times.
As with most things in life… moderation is key. While we appreciate and can thrive from the benefits of our mobile phones—locations, reconnecting with long lost friends, coupons, the list goes on—we must also be aware of its potential harms and drawbacks. That way we can harness the good while minimizing the bad.
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Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition,
and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.