Do you ever feel like you spend too much time looking at your smartphone? Constantly scrolling through social media, checking email, playing games, or mindlessly clicking around? Before you glance at that screen yet again, consider these 10 negative smartphone effects:

1. Lack of zzzzz’s

If you regularly stay up late checking social media or playing online games, you may be sacrificing precious hours of sleep time, as well as making it difficult to fall asleep when you do put away your phone.

Cell phones and other electronic devices emit light in the blue spectrum. "Blue light, because of its suppression of melatonin production (a hormone that regulates sleep) inhibits the ability to fall asleep,” says Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Arizona, and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day. The blue light also tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime, which can make you more restless during the night. The solution? “Give yourself a tech curfew: Turn off those electronics 90 minutes before lights-out to help promote sounder sleep,” Rosenberg says.

2. Pain in the neck (or spine)

Kenneth K. Hansraj, M.D., chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine and author of Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine, did a study on the stress that smartphone use puts on the neck and spine. “On average, people spend more than two hours each day looking down at their mobile devices.” This position puts a strain on the neck and spine that can lead to irreversible damage, he says. While you may not be willing to retire your technology, he recommends that “individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over.”

3. Germ fest

If you’re guilty of using your phone in the bathroom, you could be increasing your risk of getting sick. Recent studies have shown that a majority of randomly selected cellphones had germs (including fecal bacteria) that can cause illness. “Consider that the next time you check your email while in the stall,” says Scott Weiss, co-owner of Bodhizone Physical Therapy & Wellness in New York City. “My advice to stay healthy and continue using a smartphone is to never pull it out while in the bathroom unless you clean it immediately afterwards."

4. Eye strain

Weiss also mentioned how cell phone use can impact the eyes. "Prolonged staring at cellphone displays causes squinting and straining of the eye muscles. Furthermore, staring at bright screens in the evening can also cause squinting and ocular stress that can lead to headaches.” Avoid the problem by limiting your screen time.

5. Ear damage

“Despite the technology of modern headphones, people still crank the volume up to the point that people next to you can hear their music,” Weiss says. “These loud noises damage the hair cells of the inner ear that convert sound waves into brain signals. Prolonged abuse will damage the eardrum and lead to hearing loss at a much younger age.” The fix? Keep the volume turned down and put a limit on the amount of time you spend listening to music or using headphones while playing games or watching videos.

6. Wrist and thumb tendonitis (AKA "Text Claw")

Ever type a long text and have your fingers cramp? You could be suffering from a condition called “text claw,” according to Weiss. “Cramping, soreness, tight wrist and hand muscles, and tendonitis have emerged as we all have been adapting to typing on our smartphones.” One way to prevent the issue is by using a voice app to dictate messages instead of typing.

7. Distracted driving (and walking!)

You know the dangers inherent in texting and driving. But a less-publicized problem is the risk of texting while you walk. “We all know how hazardous texting and driving is, and how the distraction of cellphones causes hundreds of phone-related car accidents each year. The safety hazards that phone-related distractions cause are growing more and more as people incorporate using their phone in everyday tasks,” Weiss says.

“Countless people each year do some serious damage to their bodies as a result of falling while walking and looking at their phones.” The key to avoid becoming victim to a smartphone-related accident is simple: just keep your phone use in perspective. “Be smart about phone use, and don’t jeopardize your—or anyone else’s—safety for a text message."

8. Risk of cancer

“The jury is still out on this decision, but the World Health Organization advises people to reduce cellphone use due to the fact that emitted radiation [from the phones] can cause cancers to the head, face, ear, and neck,” Weiss says. Therefore, it’s better to be safe than sorry. “It’s advised to never put the cellphone directly to your face; using an earpiece or headphones will be optimal."

9. Withdrawal

“Like any stimulus, lack of use can lead to feelings of withdrawal, and cellphones are no different,” Weiss explains. “Studies have shown that abrupt reduction of cellphone use can cause mental and emotional signs of withdrawal that are similar to the feelings felt when trying to kick an addiction. Symptoms like anxiety, fidgetiness, and stress are all symptoms exhibited by people who have developed an unhealthy addiction to their device." This doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your phone, but being aware of the problem may remind you to keep usage in perspective.

10. Relationship problems

“People are using their smartphones as a way to stay connected to the world, their friends, and family, but it can have the opposite effect,” says Jim Hjort, LCSW, a California-based psychotherapist and the founder of the Right Life Project. Some people may find themselves turning to their smartphones instead of engaging in personal communication with the people who are around them.

“Technology can become a problem when it becomes your primary means of social contact,” he says. Instead of banning your phone, though, he suggests using it to help connect with those you care about. “Use technology to schedule in-person activities, and then ditch the tech during the activity."

Another solution: “Setting blackout times is also helpful (for example, while eating with a partner or the family),” adds Erika Martinez, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Miami, Florida.

Scott Weiss, DPT, ATC, CSCS, FACSM, co-owner, Bodhizone Physical Therapy & Wellness, PLLC, New York City, reviewed this article.


Hansraj, Kenneth K., M.D., Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine and author of Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine. Email interview, Sept. 1, 2015.

Hjort, Jim, LCSW, California-based psychotherapist and founder, Right Life Project. Email interview, Sept. 1, 2015.

Martinez, Erika, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist, Miami, Florida. Email interview, Sept. 1, 2015.

Rosenberg, Robert S., DO, FCCP, medical director, Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Arizona, and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day. Email interview, Sept. 1, 2015.

Weiss, Scott, DPT, ATC, CSCS, FACSM, co-owner, Bodhizone Physical Therapy & Wellness, PLLC, New York City. Email interview, Sept. 1, 2015.