Bagnall Centre News

Time for a digital detox?

Without doubt, mobile phones have entirely revolutionised the way we communicate. But whilst this totally connected world promises great things, there are also negatives. A variety of mental, physical and emotional issues stem from technology overuse and there is an increasing need to put some boundaries in place and disconnect to reconnect!

Increasing numbers of employees are now working outside their normal working hours, partly due to an increase in remote working but also because of a pressure to be available 247, which modern technology enables. Many people suffer from this pressure to be constantly connected to work and are expected to respond swiftly to email requests, albeit in the evening or at the weekend. This can have a detrimental effect on quality of home and family life and increase stress which in turn can have health repercussions.

Person sitting at a desk

Using technology late at night can impact your sleep too. The blue wavelength light from LED-based devices (such as your phone, tablet or computer) has been found to increase the release of cortisol, a hormone that keeps you alert, meaning we are kept alert when we least need to be and also inhibiting the production of melatonin, which we need to fall asleep. Plus the bombardment of wifi pollution through sleeping near your phone, or in a home with wifi interferes with your ability to fall asleep and your sleep patterns.

We are entirely inundated by Wifi and cannot deny its convenience but the health implications are emerging and are of real concern. Wifi can have negative effects on overall health and brain health, particularly for children and fetal development.

Other social and emotional issues are on the rise, notably through overuse of technology regarding social media and gaming. Vulnerable people can be at risk of increasing isolation and there is alarming evidence of the difficulties of comprehending reality versus non-reality. There are even counsellors available who specialise in weaning people off social media. A seemingly unbelievable example of the very real psychological issues caused by internet addiction is apparent in the existence of a controversial military-style boot camp in China where desperate parents send their children who are suffering from internet addiction. (See the Telegraph interview below if you’d like to read more about this, it is worth reading!)

It’s not just about reconnecting physically with people and getting away from mobile contact. There are increasingly concerning indications from research across the globe that long-term mobile phone usage can have detrimental effects on your health because of the effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Coverage in recent years around mobile phones increasing your chance of getting brain tumours has been criticised as irresponsible and scaremongering but mobile phone usage has been associated with brain tumours, memory and concentration problems and other issues.

One of the problems in analysing the link is that the latency period (time between exposure to cause and diagnosis of cancer) of most brain tumours is between 15 and 25 years - as mobile phones have only been in widespread usage for less than this time, it is not possible for studies to have found conclusive links yet. However there is an increasing amount of epidemiological evidence showing signs of significantly increased risk of brain cancer incidence from long term mobile phone usage.

We cannot block our exposure to the modern bombardment of electromagnetic radiation but there are some simple small steps you can take to reduce your exposure.

  • Do not keep your phone or tablet close to your body.
  • Only use your phone when necessary, and keep calls short.
  • Hold your phone away from your body after dialling and until the call has connected. The same for texts, keep the phone away from you until the text has been sent. This is because your phone communicates at full power when it is connecting to a number.
  • Using a mobile phone in a car or train traps the fields inside the vehicle’s metal frame, so avoid using your mobile in the car unless it’s really an emergency.
  • Switch your phone off when you carry it around. Even on standby, your phone is contacting the nearest mast whenever you move into a different masts coverage, and even when you’re not moving it still checks in regularly.
  • Switch off your wireless router too if you aren’t using it.
  • Use an old-fashioned (!) analogue alarm clock and don’t sleep with your phone (or tablet or computer) in the bedroom.

So put your phone down! Just for one day.