Electronic media (i.e., smartphones, televisions, or other electronic devices) has offered us unprecedented access to music, entertainment, information, and to each other. Internet access and electronic devices have offered so much value, however, that 8- to 18-year-olds spend approximately 7.5 hours per day with electronic devices, according to a national study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Too much of a good thing has consequences. For example, researchers studying health effects found that blue light from screens can disrupt sleep, and electromagnetic fields from electronics may contribute to various adverse health effects (including DNA damage, reproductive issues, and neurotoxicity). All that exposure to electronic media can contribute to obesity, negatively influence your brain (which is still developing until age 20), and lead to developing unhealthy habits that are hard to break.
To create a healthier balance, consider the tips below.
1. Detox Your Bedroom
Electronics—even cordless phones and electric alarm clocks—emit electromagnetic fields (or EMFs) that may burden your health. Since EMFs are relatively new and diseases take decades to manifest, conclusions about the effects of EMFs need more time to emerge. Meanwhile, governments are recognizing that vulnerabilities vary, and some—such as those in France, Canada, and Australia—have taken measures to limit children’s EMF exposures. In your bedroom, minimize electronics, especially near your bed. Turn Wi-Fi and other devices off at night. If you can’t, then turn Wi-Fi devices to airplane mode and create as much distance as possible between Wi-Fi routers and people sleeping.
2. Create Mini Detoxes
Increased screen time can disrupt sleep, weaken memory, lead to decreased human connections and reduced empathy, deteriorate eye health, lead to worse posture, and impair cardiac and nervous systems. Take mini detoxes for an hour or more each day. During this time, move your body in fresh air: bike, walk, jog, or play a sport. Even better, walk barefoot on grass or the beach: Electrons from the earth may help boost immunity and fight inflammation.
3. Create More Distance
EMF exposure decreases with distance from the emitting source. So reduce your exposures by creating distance between you and the source.
- From cellphones, texting is best (don’t text while driving, though!). When you must speak, use speakerphone or headphones with built-in microphones to create distance from your brain (Bluetooth can emit EMFs too). Keep phone calls short. And avoid keeping cellphones in your pockets since they emit EMFs even when not in use.
- While using a laptop, avoid having it on your lap, and remember that EMFs will be much higher if it is plugged into an electrical outlet.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Using electronics, and especially social media, can increase anxiety, loneliness, and depression. So limit your exposure and notice how you feel after you’ve spent more time enjoying the offline world. Consider when being on your electronics is truly necessary: While electronics are sometimes necessary for work and productivity, we can limit usage that’s just due to habit or for the sake of alleviating boredom.
5. Give Technology a Bedtime That’s at Least an Hour Before Yours
Blue light from electronic screens can hinder sleep by disrupting circadian rhythms and suppressing melatonin. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School has linked insufficient sleep with poor memory, poor judgment, and a higher risk of chronic disease. Other experts linked poor sleep with cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Conversely, more sleep can help improve academic and testing scores and decrease driving accidents!
Sophia Ruan Gushée is the author of “A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures.” New York Times bestselling author Dr. Frank Lipman described it as “a great guide for people to reduce their toxic exposures from consumer products.” Gushee’s healthy, nontoxic tips have been featured in Manhattan Modern Luxury magazine, New York’s Resident Magazine, Latham Thomas’s “Mama Glow,” Green Child Magazine, and more.