Cellphones, Screen Time & Your Health with Catherine Price

In this episode of The Functional Medicine Radio Show, Dr. Carri’s special guest Catherine Price explains the effects of cell phones and other new technologies on health, e.g., screen time.

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author of How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life. Her work has been featured in The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, The Washington Post Magazine and The LA Times. Her previous book was Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food.

Screen time – Main Questions Asked:

  • Why is it important for us to re-evaluate our relationship with our phones?
  • Do the manufacturers make us addicted to these things?
  • What are the effects of all of this screen time on our brain?
  • Can you talk about “digital dementia”?
  • What about using GPS?
  • What are better ways to use our phones and tablets?
  • How effective is your program?

Screen time – Key Points made by Catherine:

  • We’re slowly beginning to become more aware that there might be downsides to the time that we’re spending on our phones. They’re not just neutral or fun technologies.
  • We’re talking about constant connectivity via devices. Researchers have a word for this, it’s Wireless-Enabled Mobile Devices (WMD). Right now, phones, tablets, and laptops are the most obvious examples of this, but there going to be more of them in the future.
  • The average person’s screen time is 3 hours and 57 minutes a day. So almost four hours, which is a sixth of your life.
  • If you start thinking about the business models and incentives behind phones and apps, then a lot of this becomes much easier to understand.
  • Apps, in particular, are designed to keep us on them for as long as possible and therefore use a lot of elements that are also common in things like slot machines and devices that are designed to be addictive.
  • The bigger concern is what all this screen time that we’re spending, what this four hours a day is doing to our brains. I think that’s something that should concern people because our brains are incredibly plastic, meaning they’re constantly changing.
  • When you spend four hours a day doing anything, you’re going to get pretty good at doing whatever that thing is but when we’re on our phones, we’re not really pursuing any one particular thing. It is a very, very intensely focused state of distraction.
  • Digital dementia is a catch-all term for some of these effects that all this screen time is having on us. One of those effects is that it impacts our ability to stay focused.
  • If you’re spending lots of time doing any one particular thing, you’re causing changes in the circuitry and the physical structure of your brain in ways that will increase one skill, not necessarily a good one, and it might be at the expense of something else.
  • There’s been interesting work done in children by psychiatrists, where some kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD or have tendencies along that line, are greatly improved, if not the symptoms entirely alleviated by doing a fast from screens.
  • Taking screen time back from your phone so you can spend that time and attention on something else that brings you more meaning and joy.
  • If you actually start to pay attention to what you’re doing in the moment and how it makes you feel, and whether or not it’s something you want to be doing, it becomes a lot easier to change.
  • It sounds ridiculous to say that we should prescribe ten minutes of reading a day to help people’s brains, but I actually do think that that is a good place to start and that it actually can have effects, because I’ve certainly seen that happen for myself.

Screen time – Resources Mentioned:

App – Moment

App – Quality Time

Book – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book – Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest For Nutritional Perfection

Book – How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life

Catherine’s website

Book – Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again

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