Time and again, the abuse of mobile phones has been slammed by medics as well as experts who have sounded a warning against the misuse of these gadgets. Apart from the deadly online games that are taking young lives, the use of such gadgets for long hours can cause serious health issues, say experts. “As a teacher and father if I have to identify the worst menace affecting the personality, social attitude and academic performance of students, I have no hesitation in saying it is the smartphones and social media,” says Dr Syed Bashir Ahmad from the University of Nizwa.
“These devices are detrimental to the health of our societies. They have advantages too, but the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages.”
“We all need to ponder over how to control the use of these ‘non-smart’ devices,” said Dr Ahmed, who has decades of experience interacting with students and has published several papers on diverse topics.
But the list of health issues associated with the overuse of mobile phones is endless.
“Some of these include eye-related problems, headaches and addiction among youngsters. For an increasing number of people, the cause of poor posture and backache is a result of spending too much time with heads and necks bent at unhealthy angles over their mobile phones,” says Dr Nigel Kuriakose, Department of Anaesthesia and ICU, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.
According to some studies, bending your head at a 60-degree angle to peer over a phone places 60 pounds of pressure on the cervical spine above the shoulders — more than the weight of an average seven-year-old.
Researchers say this type of stress could result in the early wear and tear (degeneration) of parts of spine, which might even require surgery.
The recently published World Health Organisation Fact Sheet says that a person using a mobile phone 30-40 cm away from the body while texting and using the Internet will reduce the quantum of exposure to radio-frequency fields than someone holding the handset close.
Similarly, experts warn that excessive use of mobile phones is like living close to a mobile tower, which is tantamount to being in a life-sized microwave.
Normal/neutral posture means having the ears in line with the shoulders and the shoulders back and down. Yet, prolonged use of cell phones and computers flex the spine forward, which is stressful to the anatomy. It is thus important to correct our posture while using mobile phones.
“WhatsApp is a modern menace which has become something like a dog’s collar. You are on a leash. Communication with others should be your need and not for others to disturb you all the time. Wish you could live without these gadgets,” says Dr Shyam Bawikar, Public Health Adviser, Ministry of Health HQ, Oman.
Problems don’t end there. Prolonged use of mobiles phones will cause serious health hazards, including sleep disturbances and cancer. These gadgets can lead to financial losses and, in extreme cases, even suicide, reveals a study.
Children’s studies and other useful activities are also affected by mobile phones. It also makes them involve in “unwanted activity”. The mobile phones also contribute to an unhealthy society as they reduce social interactions.
Last but not the least, a majority of road accidents (70 per cent) are because of the use of mobile phones while driving, according to the Royal Oman Police (ROP).