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Physical effects of overusing technology

Doctors and experts say teens should be careful and the constant connectivity can have negative effects on their physical health. (WGME)

SOUTH PORTLAND (WGME) – Teens today are navigating a much different world than their parents did at their age.

Now all of us are trying to understand the effects of growing up in the digital age. Doctors and experts say teens should be careful and the constant connectivity can have negative effects on their physical health.

Dr. Jonathan Fanburg is a pediatrician at Maine Health and says parents do need to watch their teen’s technology use. He says using a phone, video game or tablet too can cause strains in their hands.

“When you move your thumb too much it causes irritation of the thumb and potentially redness,” Dr. Fanburg said. “If it’s really bad a lot of pain and stiffness as well and rarely swelling even.”

He says he’s sees these kinds of injuries in gamers who are playing a new game for hours on end.

“If you use any part of your body over and over and over you get what we call overuse syndrome and that might be in the thumbs you might get strain along the muscles in the thumbs and tendons in the thumb until it hurts,” Fanburg said.

He said overuse can also cause strains in the eyes and can even mess with sleep. He says teens will sometimes stay up all night playing games or connecting on social media. In addition, the blue light emitting from the screens can still impact teens longer after they put they put them down for bed.

“Blue light is the concept of the wavelength of light,” Dr. Fanburg explains. “That wavelength might interfere with some things. It might interfere with sleep and we recognize kids who get exposed to blue light before bedtime have a harder time falling asleep as opposed to kids who are exposed to other wavelengths.”

Dr. Fanburg suggests teens turn off screens at least two hours before bedtime. He also suggests limiting screen time to two hours, but understands that may be hard to track.

“We need to look at something other than that number because it’s really hard to measure,” Dr. Fanburg said. “We need to look at the quality of the screen time. What are they actually doing? Is it interactive screen time which requires the brain to think a little or is it passive screen time watching videos or movies or things like that which is very thought to be less effective for growth and happiness.”

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