How Internet Browsing Can Negatively Impact Your Body

Are You Feeling the Effects of Too Much Time Spent Online?

Too Much Internet Browsing
Photo © Deux / Getty Images

A 2014 report from Nielson revealed that the average time spent online was almost 27 hours every month per person in the United States. Mobile device use accounted for over 34 monthly hours per person. That's a lot of Internet browsing for the average person, but what's really considered too much?

Any amount of web use that negatively impacts a person's physical, mental and emotional health could be considered too much.

If you can relate to any of the situations listed below, it may be time to cut back on the amount of time you spend online.

1. A study by the University of Toronto found that sitting for 8 to 12 hours or more a day leads to more hospitalization, heart disease, cancer and early death -- even if you exercise regularly. Whether you're at work in the office or at home on the couch, web browsing often goes hand in hand with being sedentary. What's truly shocking about the study's findings from the risk of too much sitting is that even taking a small slot of time out of your day to hit the gym can't undo its damage.

Standing desks and treadmill desks being used both in the office and at home are among some of the new and trendy ways you can keep moving all day long. If that's not possible, you can also download an app or use a website that has a timer and alarms you to get up, step away from the computer and walk around for two minutes about every half hour.

2. Optometric physician and About.com Vision Expert Dr. Troy Bedinghaus writes that "digital eye strain" caused by blue light-emitting screens from televisions, computers, and smartphones can disrupt your sleep. Your insomnia or tossing and turning at night may be a result of staring at screens to close to bedtime.

Dr. Bedinghaus ​explains the relationship between blue light and the sleep hormone melatonin, pointing out that you end up feeling more awake at night from blue light exposure because it sends a message to make your body think it's still daytime.

The simple (but not necessarily easy) fix for this problem is to limit exposure to light-emitting screens close to bedtime. If you have a hard time giving up your screen time at night, consider doing what I do -- wear a pair of blue light-blocking amber tinted glasses while browsing your laptop, tablet or phone at least a couple hours before bed.

3. A U.S. research report revealed that tilting your head to look down at your smartphone puts more stress on your neck, which could even be severe enough to cause permanent damage. A new trend referred to as "text neck" is being used to describe the neck pain or headaches people experience from prolonged periods of time tilting their heads at unnatural angles to stare down at their smartphone of tablet. According to the report, the average person's head weighs 10 to 12 pounds when held naturally upright, but when tilted down at a 60-degree angle, that weight stress on the spine increases to 60 pounds.

The research recommends that you make an effort to look at devices in a neutral position as often as possible, use voice recognition and make phone calls ​rather than text, or at the very least take breaks and avoid spending lots of time hunched over your phone. As with almost all technology that competes for hours of our attention, bad posture is often always a concern.

4. Numerous studies have shown links between social media use and anxiety, or even depression. All sorts of studies are being carried out nowadays to measure the impact of social media on users' psychological and emotional well-being.

While some studies show that heavy users of social media report increased feelings of loneliness and less time spent with people face to face, other reports suggest that social media also can have a positive impact on people -- such as the lower stress levels experienced by women who use social media, according to a recent Pew report.

In extreme cases, heavy social media use can lead to or worsen deteriorating relationships, self-esteem issues, social anxiety and even cyber bullying. If you think you might be suffering from any these things, consider talking to a professional who can help you, cut way back on your time spent online, clean up your social networks from friends or connections that may be "toxic" and spend more time doing what you love with the people you like to be around.

Next recommended reading: 5 reasons to take a break from the Internet