Does Too Much Tech in the Home Hurt Health?

With all of the tech that we are exposed to daily, does any of it harm our personal health? From our experience, if you use tech too much, it will hurt you in some way or form. In our opinion, a judicious use of technology can actually improve your health, but anything that's overused can become an addiction.

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We spent most of our days wired. Just check out your typical day. You log onto your computer when you wake up, check your emails and Facebook, then eat breakfast and head out the door while reading news on you smart phone. When you arrive at work, you log onto the network and start working, but you always switch on your IM and chat clients, as well as a Facebook tab, if you employer allows that.

When you come back home, you probably eat something and switch on the TV and computer. You probably watch some shows, browse the Internet, do some social networking before calling it a day. It's safe to say that more and more, people will spend lots of time online. Just like anything, from video games, online RPGs, and social networking, it can become an addiction.

If you feel the need to constantly update your Twitter timeline, check out what your friends and acquaintances are doing on Facebook, reblogging stuff on your Tumblr, then maybe it's time to log off and spend some time offline. A typical family dinner probably involves your children texting or using their phones at the dinner table. There's a fine line between using technology and becoming addicted to it.

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What do you do when you get home? Instead of eating dinner with our significant others, a lot of us just spend time on the computer. This is one of the reasons why we need spend time offline, especially on the weekends. It might involve going on a hike, going out for dinner, going to a movie, or exploring your city. There are a lot of things that you can do that don't involve tech.

A lot of people forget that spending time with actual people is very healthy. It forces you to interact and you aren't constantly plugged in. Just like too much texting can hurt teenagers, too much time in front of your TV can hurt you as well. New research has shown that children who spend more than two hours in front of a screen run a risk of behavioral problems. There is a belief that we can balance out screen time with physical activity, and that's not strictly accurate. The study has shown that watching TV or playing computer games for more than two hours a day will lead to greater psychological difficulties, no matter how active the children are.

As for texting, teenagers tend to text late at night, while their parents are sleeping, in restaurants and in the classroom. This has been spurred on by the unlimited texting plans offered by some mobile phone carriers. American teenagers will send and receive an average of 2,272 text messages per month. That's almost 80 messages a day and this data is from 2009.

Physicians and psychologists say that this can lead to anxiety, failing grades, stress, and sleep deprivation. In adults, constantly checking up with technology can lead to stress-related issues. That's one of the reasons why it's good to switch off on the weekends or when you're spending time with your family.

This should force us all to slow down, to stop checking our feeds, news, and social networking sites. If your children see you constantly on your iPhone, then they will try an emulate this behavior. Watching a movie together, spending time reading a book, and generally taking time for yourself will give you perspective on how much you use your tech. It's one of the reasons why I only check my email a few times a day, and I rely on my emails for work-related issues. There's no need to know immediately when you receive new emails or updates. Sometimes, on Sundays, I'll check my email only once. Sometimes I won't even do it at all. I still have a Facebook account, but log in only once every month or so. In the past, I always had an open email and Facebook tab.

Slowing down is easy to say, but if you are trying to do so, you should do it step by step. The biggest issue is stress-relief, and if social networking makes you anxious in some shape or form, you shouldn't be investing so much time into it.

[images by Brendan Smialowski for The NYT, Kelly V, AARP.org]

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