Smartphones — and the apps, photos and texts that come with them — are hard to resist. Americans log more than an hour of screen time on the devices each day, according to a December 2013 data analysis from Nielsen.
Smartphone addiction is so widespread that there are apps dedicated to encouraging avid texters and tweeters to leave their phones alone. Just this week, a group of Singapore students won $23,000 for designing "Apple Tree," an app that rewards users for leaving their phones untouched at social events.
For some, the benefits of reducing smartphone use seem obvious. "Unplugging" from social media site notifications or email alerts can reduce stress and add to time spent with family members and friends.
Others might need more encouragement, and that's where research on the health risks of smartphone use comes in handy.
Here are four of the latest findings on the physical consequences of smartphone use, sure to help anyone let a sleeping phone lie:
1. Texting tweaks the spine
Looking down at a smartphone screen to send a text or update Facebook does more than create potential collisions. It also puts pounds of pressure on the spine, according to a new study inSurgical Technology International.
"Unless you train yourself to stare straight ahead into your iPhone screen, you could be continually stressing your spine," The Atlantic reported, noting that pressure increases from around 27 pounds at a 15 degree angle to 60 pounds at a 60 degree angle. Researcher Kenneth Hansraj concluded in the study that such stress could lead to early wear and tear that could someday require surgical attention.
Although slumping to check a smartphone screen is only one aspect of bad posture, "it's certainly eyebrow-raising to learn that looking at Twitter in the supermarket checkout line is the equivalent of giving an aardvark a piggy-back ride," The Atlantic noted.
2. 3G networks endanger kids
Another recent study brought data on the availability of 3G networks to bear on the oft-repeated claim that smartphone use impacts child-rearing.
Craig Palsson, an economics graduate student at Yale University, released a working paper last month that explored the relationship between the rollout of AT&T's 3G network and hospital records in the cities it reached. In it, Palsson reported that injuries to children younger than 5 increased by 10 percent when a city gained access to a 3G network.
Palsson was confident that he'd established a valid link between the children's injuries and parental smartphone use because of the kinds of injuries shown in hospital records, Quartz reported. "Injuries such as falling down stairs or getting hurt at non-school playgrounds increased, while children remained relatively harm-free in school settings, where teachers aren't on their phones."
3. Regular use can cause carpal tunnel or 'cellphone elbow'
Carpal tunnel, often linked to office work such as typing, is also a common side effect of smartphone use, Good Housekeeping reported this summer. Overuse of tendons in the arms causes inflammation, which then leads to pain and numbness.
Additionally, smartphone use can lead to "cellphone elbow," an appropriately named ailment that stems from bending at the elbow for long periods of time, one Indiana clinic reported. The condition causes tingling or numbness in the ring and pinky fingers.
4. Staring at screens damages the eyes
Several articles in recent years have explored the bad habit of checking smartphones before bed, explaining that late-night screen time disrupts sleep patterns. But a lesser known side effect of texting after dark is vision damage.
The culprit, Business Insider reported, is blue light. This member of the full light spectrum is extremely bright, and therefore harmful to look at when lights are off.
"The blue light from personal electronic devices has … been linked to serious physical and mental health problems," including macular degeneration, cataracts and higher cancer risk, Business Insider reported.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas