UPDATED 12:41 EDT / NOVEMBER 11 2013

Gadgets + services to beat the health hazards of tech

As a kid I was often warned not to sit too close to the television – it’d mess up my eyes.  But teens and young children today have more than just a moderately sized TV screen to worry about.  Smartphones, tablets and game devices have introduced a plentitude of opportunities to weaken overall health at an increasingly younger age.  And over time, it’s a hefty trade off for the convenience of technology.

The Huffington Post created an infographic based on studies that shows just how badly technology is affecting our lives, and it starts with the younger generation. If the situation is not corrected, we may see a future of hunched, poorly sighted, and hard-of-hearing young adults, aging ahead of their time.

  • This is your teen on screen

Reviewing the infographic, it’s clear our teens and children face a tech hazard at every turn.  While we can’t pry our teens away from their beloved gadgets (we can’t even pry ourselves away as often as we should), all is not lost.  There are things you can do to alleviate the effects of poor posture and dry eyes, minimizing the long-term damage tech can do to your body.

Here’s a list of gadgets, services and tips to beat the health hazards of tech.



According to the infographic, about 84 percent of 18-24 year olds surveyed admitted to experiencing back problems because of being slumped over their phones for hours.  Even adults suffer the same problem when they are hunched over their computer or laptops.

The normal position of the back has a little bit of inward curve at the neck and a little outward curve in the upper back, and a slight inward curve in the lower back.  When you are hunched over on your mobile device, computer or laptop, you head is moved forward or even lower, straining your neck and back.  This causes soreness and fatigue.

The fix: Dr. Sherilyn Driscoll, a doctor of pediatric physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center,  recommends maintaining an upright position when using these devices, and be conscious of ergonomics, such as placing computer keyboards at hand level, and using chairs with a supportive backrest.

You can also invest in the LUMOback, a device that straps around your lower back to help you monitor your posture.  If you are not sitting or standing properly, the device sends you gentle vibrations so you can quickly correct it.  It also has a mobile app where you can see how well or poorly you are managing your posture.

Text Claw


In a 2012 Nielsen report, it was revealed that the average teen sends about 3,417 texts a month or an average of 7 texts per hour.  Because of the excessive use of phones, many teens now suffer from what experts are calling text claw or, experiencing pain in the wrists and fingers.  The same problem can also be seen in teens and kids who are addicted to playing video games.

The fix: Dr. Eric Ruderman, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, recommends limiting game time, as two hours per day of video gaming, is too much for 7 and 8 year-olds.  For text claw, it’s recommended that you stretch your hands, flexing your fingers and wrist, applying a warm compress and massaging to relax the muscles.

For parents worried about their kids simply continuing their gaming session in the privacy of their bedrooms, there’s WebCurfew.  This free-to-try service limits access at the router level, requiring no apps to download on any devices.

Poor eyesight


David Epley, a pediatric ophthalmologist in Kirkland, Wash., and a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, states that when a person spends time in front of a scree, the blink rate goes down.  This causes dry, itchy eyes and eye strain.  If this is not addressed, the child can develop myopia, or nearsightedness.

Studies have also shown that children who spend less time outside have narrower blood vessels in their eyes, and has been discovered to be linked to cardiovascular problems in their adulthood.

The fix:  The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends The 20-20-20 Rule. This is a trick to help prevent eye strain and future eye problems. When you have been using any device for 20 minutes straight, take a break by looking at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.  Blink a few times to help your eye muscles relax, then go back to what you are doing.  This will prevent the development of near-sightedness in the future.

Or you can get a pair of i90 Heads-up tablet and smartphone glasses.  This device not only reduces eye strain, it also helps correct your posture.

Sleep-deprived zombies


According to the infographic, only 20 percent of adolescents get the recommended 9 hours of sleep on school nights.  Not surprisingly, kids these days are distracted by attention-seeking devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers and even TVs, prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep.

According to the Case Western School of Nursing, the light emitted by these screens confuses our brains, since our circadian pacemaker cannot discern if the light is from the sun or an artificial source.  This results in teens staying up late, which we all know can lead to cranky and unsociable creatures.

The fix:  The National Sleep Foundation recommends 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep for adolescents.  In order to achieve this, parents should implement a strict curfew for devices or resort to confiscating their kids’ devices.

To ensure that your kids are getting the right amount of sleep, parents can place a Beddit sensor under their kids’ bedsheet.  The sensor is ultra-thin, as to not interfere with the sleeper’s comfort.  Beddit connects to your smartphone via an app and tracks sleep quality, heart rate, breathing rhythm, movement, sleep stages, snoring, as well as the sleeping environment, noise level and light.  With Beddit, you can monitor if your kid is really going to sleep, and if he or she is getting enough shut eye.

Can you hear me now?


According to studies, about 12.5 percent of children and adolescents aged 6-19 suffered from permanent damage to their hearing because of overexposure to excessive noise. Many kids these days use headphones or earphones to drown out the noise from their environment.  It can be to mask the noise coming from the lawnmower, their parents, or bothersome siblings.

The fix: If your kids are using an iPod Touch or iPhone to get their music fix, you can set the maximum volume limit and lock it to prevent your kids from suffering hearing loss in the long run.

Go to Settings > iPod > Music > Volume Limit. Drag the slider to the left to lower the maximum volume. Adjust it to a level you think is proper.  Once satisfied, tap Lock Volume Limit. You will be prompted to enter and confirm a four-digit code.

You can also purchase earbuds that could prevent hearing loss like the iHearSafe Earbuds. The earbuds are designed to keep the volume below 80 decibels no matter how loud the original format is or if the volume cranked up.

Couch potato


Obesity is one of the major health issues facing adolescents today.  And with the emergence of tricked out mobile devices and addicting video games, it is now harder for parents to urge their kids to go outside and participate in physical activities.

In a recent study, 61 percent of obese boys and 63 percent of obese girls reported watching television for two or more hours each day.  Studies also suggest that TV viewing habits in childhood can predict obesity risk in adulthood.

The fix: Government guidelines recommend at least an hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, at least three times a week, in order to fight obesity.  This will help increase the kid’s strength and develop strong muscles.  But how will you do that when they are stuck on their mobile device?

Sphere 2.0 could help to get your kids outside.  Sphere 2.0 is controlled by an app and comes with two ramps.  It has a top speed of 7 feet per second and connects with your kid’s device via Bluetooth with a range of up to 100 feet.  It has multicolor LEDs that makes the ball more interesting, and more visible at night.  You can also purchase the Nubby cover, a rubber protector, for off-road fun.  It’s waterproof, dustproof and shockproof  to survive the real world and not a virtual one.

photo credit: flickingerbrad via photopin cc
photo credit: Tormod Ulsberg via photopin cc
photo credit: Fey Ilyas via photopin cc

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