Written by ‘Sola Fagorusi - Punch, Nigeria.
The mobile phone is one of man’s greatest inventions. It provides a fitting solution to man’s ravenous craving for communication. It is even more dependable now that it serves other purposes than just sending text messages and making calls.
Smart mobile phones now aid navigation in communities with maps, capture pictures and videos. The services that mobile apps offer are limitless.
Mobile phones have become the most preferred screen to stare at for many hours, displacing television that hitherto held this record.
Researchers peg the number of hours people spend on their mobile phones at an average of three hours daily. If the figure is put in an empirical form, it means that each year, the average person spends about 1,095 hours staring at or getting something done through the mobile phone. The average person with a mobile phone, therefore, spends 45 days on their mobile phones annually. When contextualised into how many years of an average life span this translates to, the result is frightening.
Smart phones have a great appeal because of the several alternatives they offer. Games, torches, finance management, recorders, alarm clocks and, currency conversion are some of the things they offer. As technology improves, one expects that dependence on this all-important device will also increase.
Google’s enumeration of all the books in the world, in an effort to digitise every book, totalled about 129 million as of 2010. If the figure is adjusted to include books outside Google’s definition for the book count project, it will still not compare with the 7.2 billion gadgets believed to be currently in use all over the world.
The constant use of laptops, tablets and mobile phones comes at a price. Premised on this, the concept of ergonomics comes to mind. Also called the human factor, it is described as “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance.”
The discipline is more relevant in today’s work place. It studies human capacities in relationship to work demands. Very few individuals and work places acknowledge this in their occupational safety overview and review. It is mostly about getting the work done. The health of the worker is ignorantly snubbed in this regard.
Mobile phone ergonomics is concerned with the number of times people bend their necks to look at their mobile phones either to reply a text message or push out a tweet or any of such related activity. For instance, when our heads are in their regular position, the force on the spinal region is normal. But, as we bend further the force increases, leading to health challenges in the neck region and stress of diverse shades.
We may not see the effects now for this iPod generation. But, as this generation ages, occupational safety professionals are genuinely worried about potential health issues.
A number of recommendations are in the public domain on how to address this problem. Popular on the list is the need to purge the phone of several needless distractions and ensure that it only serves and aids productivity.
Scheduling specific time of the day to handle emails and social media use is one of the solutions. It is, however, not a generic answer. For people who are digital media experts, this may be a difficult solution.
Maybe taking breaks off the screen at regulated times will bring some relief. Using the phone with one’s back flat against the ground and the screen against one’s face also makes a lot of difference. The posture relaxes the body and relieves the stress that comes with the usual wrong posture. However, there is a limitation: it can only happen outside the work place. It allows the shoulder muscles some rest and addresses some biomechanical problems.
These changes start with postural awareness, consciousness and knowing that the right posture is to have the head upright, shoulder blades non- elevated and withdrawn with the two ears in line with the shoulders. The strains, on both hands, wrists and the eyes, are also other side effects.
For laptops, the leading problem is the damage done to the eyes. Adjusting the glare and display setting of the computer can make a lot of difference, especially since the eye is one of the most important organs in the body. Taking blinking breaks, using shades, having good night rests and eating healthy meals can make our eyes push back from harm’s way, which technology regularly brings us to.