iphone-388387_640For many years, the physiological dangers of cell phones and smartphones have been a lively topic of discussion culturally and scientifically. Researchers in medical and scientific communities continue to expand their study of the potential negative effects of constant smartphone use. The studies have now broadened their scope by including potential negative psychological effects.

Acceptable Dangers

What is interesting about the information coming out about the physical and mental dangers is that smartphone use is akin to what smoking once was – highly socially acceptable and thought to have social and cultural benefits. While Google Glass tends to be perceived as a piece of annoying and intrusive technology, not having a smartphone has you projected as being someone who has lost step with the times. Though the dangers of using them may vary in degree from person to person, they are accepted as part of the choice to be technologically relevant.

Texting While Driving

Take the example of texting while driving, a practice dangerous enough for a number of states to pass laws against the practice. Some states allow talking on a cell phone but not texting. You can be technologically relevant by buying a Bluetooth headset to wear while you are driving, the higher quality versions allowing you to make calls and answer incoming calls while having both hands on the wheel. Texting requires at least one free hand, and the studies show this distraction results in significantly decreased reaction time while driving. (Which is kind of a “No shit Sherlock” result.)

Yet people still text because their habit has become a preference to talking on the phone, in the car or out. The research shows that constant use of a smartphone can even cause carpal tunnel syndrome, regardless of age.

Physiological Concerns

Another parallel with risk taking and popular culture in the use of smartphones is the physiological dangers. There has been some inconclusive research on the effects of the electromagnetic wave lengths used in talking on the phone, but recent research has studied the angle that the head is tilted when using a smartphone. The normal viewing angle puts about 60 pounds of pressure on the spine, creating the potential for long term stress on the spine that may require medical treatment later.

The problem with any research that contains the phrase “long term” is it is more likely than not to be ignored by the general public because there is little physical evidence and very few cases to create a cause for alarm. Designers and manufacturers of smartphones are not likely to change the design of the most popular models because they may cause a few pains in the neck.
Psychological Issues

The existence of several studies maintaining that the specific wave length of light emanated by smartphone screens can cause sleeping problems is generally known. The studies have extended their reach to include mental problems. Sleep is one of those life cycle things that most people take for granted. However, smartphones notwithstanding, the negative effects of not getting enough sleep involve everything from an increased potential for accidents to increased stress and irritability. If smartphones are being used before breakfast and after lying down to sleep, the impact on sleeplessness is magnified.

What is somewhat puzzling about much of the health research concerning smartphones is that everyone is different in regard to the magnitude of the effect which constant use is claimed to have on an individual. Some people may complain of having the early stages of carpal tunnel, while another person shows no ill-effect from their constant use of their phone. This does not invalidate the research, but instead should make every heavy user of a smartphone pause to consider if their use is creating any negative health effects in their own life.