The opposable thumb may have made human civilization possible. But experts at the World Organization of Health are giving the thumbs down to non-stop mobile communication.
“The average teen sends more than 3339 texts a month. Multiply that by emails, Facebook, You Tube comments and your thumb muscles are being flexed and strained for up to fifteen hours a day,” says Dr. Wilson James, Director of WOH’s Department of Workplace Health. “Twentieth-century innovations like the forty-hour work week may have lessened the strain on the body, but I’m seeing eleven year olds with thumb arthritis worse than anything experienced by my great-grandmother.”
Millions of young adults already suffer from nerve damage related to technology-related repetitive motion, according to a recent WOH study. Within the next eleven to nineteen years, WOH expects as nearly 100% of teenagers with access to their own mobile phone to experience some phone of repetitive motion strain or arthritis.
“First we called it Asteroid Thumb then Mario Thumb and, I guess, today you’d call it Angry Bird Thumb,” says Dr. James. “But with the explosion of texting plus the introduction of game systems that engage the whole hand and body, we have no idea what to expect. How does 80 plus hours of week of Just Dance for several years affect an adolescent? We simply don’t know.”
Even more disturbing to researchers is the emergence of widespread sleep thumbing. “REM sleep engages muscle memory. We believe this is body’s way of releasing tension,” Dr. James explains. “However, we’re seeing many mobile phone users reporting frequent episodes off waking up while their thumbs are attempting to text a message on an invisible device.”
The average sleep thumber may send as many as 34 texts a night in his or her sleep.
The question is how do you convince teenagers to cut down on what Dr. James calls “thumb time” now before their thumbs become permanently tweaked.
The advice the WOH gives as a part of its International Thumbs Down campaign may surprise you.
“Encourage your children to speak to their friends through devices like the phone, Skype or iChat—if possible. No matter how fast their thumbs go, you can communicate a lot more information through your spoken words. In fact, if you’re using video chat, you can even skip the emoticons. :).”
CC image by Steve Winton.
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