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How Technology Impacts Physical And Emotional Health

BOSTON (CBS) - We text. We tweet. We surf.

Technology has changed the way we live our lives and for many of us, that means working more hours.

Just ask Jeff Prag, who runs his own consulting company in Natick.

"It starts probably about 5:30 in the morning. The phone is going off, checking emails and trying to respond to client needs," he said.

There are many days, according to Prag, that he is plugged into his business until midnight. That constant contact leaves him feeling exhausted.

Fatigue is only part of the problem. There are a number of ways that technology can have an impact on our physical and emotional health.

WBZ-TV's Paula Ebben reports

Dr. Matthew Gardiner is an ophthalmologist at Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.

He sees many patients with what's called 'computer vision syndrome.' It causes burning and irritation.

"Sometimes people have blurring and problems focusing," he said.

The problem is lack of blinking.

According to Dr. Gardiner, people focus intently on the screen and they forget to blink. That can lead to dry eyes which causes the irritation.

Our ears are also suffering.

Dr. Jennifer Smullen also works at Mass Eye and Ear.

She says while ear buds don't cause the problem directly, they could lead to hearing loss overtime because of the way people use them.

"An ear bud doesn't block out background sound so people tend to turn the volume up louder," she said.

Over time, that can cause hearing loss or tinnitus, which is an annoying ringing in the ear.

Dr. Smullen recommends over-the-ear headphones which do a better job of blocking out that background noise.

Technology has also allowed workers to get more done right at their desks and that means neck and back aches from spending more hours hunched over the computer.

Harvard researchers have found iPads are particularly problematic because people tend to rest them on their lap which makes the neck-strain even worse.

MIT professor Sherry Turkle says technology can also have a negative effect on our emotional health.

"This digital diet that we're on now is not the one that is going to sustain us," she explained.

One of the biggest concerns is how technology is changing the way our kids develop.

According to Turkle, many teens have trouble separating from their parents and becoming independent because mom and dad are always just a text away.

"The kid never feels quite alone, that the buck stops here and that they're launched," she said.

Apparently the problem starts young.

A recent Stanford University study found that girls as young as eight who spend a lot of time multi-tasking on digital devices tend to have lower self-confidence and social skills.

It's been well-documented that multi-tasking really doesn't work no matter what your age.

"You feel like the master of the universe but your performance goes down. That's very bad for your emotional well-being," Turkle said.

The most serious problem may have nothing to do directly with technology.

It's all that sitting.

Research shows the longer you sit, the greater the likelihood you'll die at a younger age.

You may want to grab that smartphone and go through your email while you take a walk.

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