Convenience or Killer?

Ever since the first iPhone and iPad came out in 2007 and 2010 respectively, more and more tablets and devices are coming out with new features and other capabilities. In recent years, however, there have been raised concerns about the harmful effects of excessive screen time usage. For health teacher Jeffrey Friedgood, prolonged screen time usage can affect students’ vision.

“When [students] spend an excessive amount of time on blue screens, they can develop headaches and eye strain, which can affect their vision,” Friedgood said. “Long-term, [screen time usage] could actually affect the retina of the eye.” 

Not only could vision be affected, but the quality of sleep may also be hindered.

“There is some research that shows that it cuts down the production of melatonin, keeping people from getting a good night’s sleep,” Friedgood said.

When it comes to who’s at fault for the health effects, Friedgood believes it’s both the companies and the consumers.

“The companies know that these are health effects, yet they continue to put those out. In terms of really getting that information out there, they don’t do a good job of letting the consumers know those things,” Friedgood said. “People will become more and more dependent on those until they personally start to feel the negative health effects of that type of technology.”

As a teacher, Friedgood noticed that there’s a significant shift from laptops to phones among the school.

“Students are spending a lot more time during the day on their phones more so than their laptops necessarily, but they’re on those phones continuously throughout the day,” Friedgood said. “That was not the case at the beginning when phones just started coming out.” 

  Some students, like sophomore Nathan Lin, agree that their phones have become a major part of their lives.

“I would say I’m pretty addicted to my phone,” Lin said. “I would say 3-4 hours is dedicated to playing games, 2-3 hours is to social media and one hour is to other stuff.” 

Even though there are people on their phones on an extreme basis, there are some options that users can enable to control their screen time.

“Some phones allow you to set up a downtime for using your phone,” Lin said. “You could also just go outside or participate in extracurricular activities every once in a while.” 

In terms of improving the quality of sleep, Friedgood believes that controlling the amount of blue light is important.

“Students can go into their settings [on their computers and phones] and turn off the blue light, limiting the amount of blue light,” Friedgood said.

In the end, Friedgood thinks that the most crucial component in controlling the health effects of screen time usage is developing habits.

“Children and teenagers need to understand what [the health effects] are because it’s about developing good habits,” Friedgood said. “If you can develop those habits when you’re young, they will carry over through adulthood.”

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