person walking while looking at smartphoneThis is it, folks! Our final installment of My iPad is Killing Me!. So far, we’ve looked at the problems of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs), musculoskeletal disorders, and so much more. Today we’ll wrap things up with our final two problems in the series. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and that you’ve found a few good solutions for technology use that won’t kill you!

Problem 9: Distracted Driving and Walking

Speaking of which, we’ll start things off by diving into one technology problem that really can kill you (no overstatement here): distracted driving and walking. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than 9 people in the United States are killed each day alone due to distracted driving, and as many as 1,153 people are injured. While distracted driving includes a wide range of activities like eating and fiddling with the radio, cell phone use is frequently the culprit. In the same CDC survey, 69% of US drivers between the ages of 18 to 64 reported talking while driving in the previous 30 days. 31% read or sent texts or emails during that same time period on their iPad or another device.

Distracted walking isn’t any safer. A 2013 study, which pulled data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, found a marked increase in injuries to pedestrians using cell phones in a six year period, from 559 in 2004 to 1,506 in 2010. Distracted walkers are 43% more likely to get hit by a car or have a close call, likely because they were found to give themselves far less time to cross the street. And when they did cross, they were often not paying attention to lights or to turning cars.

Solution 9woman smiling while using smartphone in public

Just…stop. Stop texting in the car, stop texting while crossing the street. The people you’re communicating with can and should wait. At least until you’re in a safe place to receive a response to you. We used to go months between written letters, and we can wait a few minutes to hear about when you’re going to arrive at the movie theater.

If it helps, set strict rules with yourself. When you’re walking or driving, your iPad should be in your bag. Period. Full stop. End of story.

If that doesn’t work, install an app that will prevent any kind of device use while your car is in motion.

Problem 10: Dizziness

Have you ever felt dizzy after a few hours of gaming? How do you feel after swiping through your tablet or smartphone all day? If you’re like some subset of people, you may also feel lightheaded or nauseated — symptoms closely associated with motion sickness. In fact, for many users the iPhone’s iOS 7 famously lead to motion sickness and vertigo. The culprit?

A bombardment of sensory signals that don’t quite match up. It’s a problem of frame of reference and relative motion. If you’ve ever sat at a red light next to a car with your foot firmly on the brake, only to jolt suddenly and feel for a split second like you’re moving forward — only to realize that it’s the car next to you that’s moving — well, then you’ve experienced what’s at the heart of this issue. In this case, everything in your body — most particularly, the systems in your inner ear, which orient you in space — is telling you that you’re sitting still; and yet, your peripheral vision is saying, “Hey, I’m getting some visual cues here that may indicate that you’re moving forward.” And so you receive the sensation of movement, even though you’re not.

The same frame of reference errors are at the heart of motion sickness. When you’re on a ship that’s bucking up and down and you feel like vomiting, your body is having trouble determining what’s moving, what’s staying still, and where you fit in all of that.

What does this have to do with iOS, and the kind of motion sickness many people experience when gaming? In both of these systems, the graphics on screen give you the sensation that there’s movement happening in your world. But in reality, you’re staying perfectly still. This creates the same kind of frame of reference disconnect that can lead to dizziness, disorientation, and, well…a visit to the porcelain goddess.

Solution 10:

For some lucky people, these kinds of problems will never be an issue. If you aren’t one of them, you may improve simply by exposure and training. After all, if you can teach your brain what’s going on, it shouldn’t have so much trouble determining its frame of reference. Alas, you may also fall in that unfortunate camp of people for whom this issue will never resolve. In that case, you can try turning off animations on your digital devices, and gaming only for short periods of time.

That’s All for: My iPad is Killing Me!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series! We’d like to give a big thanks again to the wonderful ergonomist, Kathy Espinoza, for her inspiration and guiding thoughts. And we’d love to know: what problems do you encounter when using your digital devices? Is your iPad (or your Android tablet or laptop or your desktop or smartphone) killing you? Let us know in the blog comments!

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