Smartphones are a blessing and can be a very useful tool. After all, they encourage seniors to connect with one another, as well as their loved ones. However, a recent debate has stirred regarding whether or not the usage of smartphones for seniors should be limited.

It is a widely popular fact that smartphones have more germs than the toilet seat. However, recent research conducted at Bond University, Australia alerted that smartphones could be a vessel for hoarding germs that cause COVID-19. Essentially, the senior population is the most at-risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, using smartphones may not be the ideal choice for this demographic and high risk users.

However, in addition to collecting COVID-19 germs, the regular use of smartphones can be harmful to seniors due to a number of reasons.

Email or messaging scams

The older population is at the most risk for falling victim to emails or messaging scams. Often, seniors respond to messages claiming that they have won a prize, which places them at a risk for a number of scams, including identity theft. Therefore, when you are providing a loved one with a phone, it is essential to make sure that they are made well-aware of the numerous security threats that exist online. Scams cheat older Americans out of almost $3 billion a year according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Prank calls

The limited knowledge of smartphone devices enables older adults to become victims of prank calls. Answering pranks call, over and over again, can trigger feelings of frustration in any individual. The feeling of frustration can adversely affect your health. Frustration to the body’s functioning means that nutrients and oxygen do not reach the cells. If nutrients and oxygen are not reaching the body this causes malnutrition. Frustration causes toxins to enter the body and bloodstream, and they are distributed throughout the body which impairs the functioning of the cells from doing their job (“Frustration: How it Affects Your Health” 2020).

Taking this into account, it is imperative to educate seniors about the methods of blocking a prank number, so they are not bothered by the consistent prank calls. Although, if they are unable to learn the method for blocking a number, they can ask a loved one, or the nurse provided by home healthcare services, for assistance.

The absence of a passcode

The passcode in smartphones offers protection against unrestricted access to personal data on the phone. However, as most seniors have trouble remembering things, they fail to enable the password settings on their phones. Seniors tend to create simple passwords such as 1234, or 1111 and that can be easily guessing. In doing so, their phone becomes vulnerable to unrestricted access. As a result, their personal information, including the bank account details, fall into the wrong hands. Taking this into account, it is essential to add a password to the loved one’s phone. You can set a simple password that would be easier for them to remember. With that said, the most convenient smartphone for seniors would be one with fingerprint sensors. This way, the phone owners can simply unlock the phones, without having to remember complex passwords.

Hacking and unauthorized access

Storing personal information, such as bank details, social security numbers, and health insurance ID on cell phones can be convenient for seniors. However, this act also places them at risk for cyber-crime. Texas is placed among the top three or four states in economic losses from cybercrime according to the 2016 Internet Crime Report. Even the phones secured with a strong password are not safe from hacking. Taking this into account, it is recommended to guide your loved ones to avoid storing personal information on the phone.

Downloading fraudulent applications

As stated earlier, the older population is not familiar with the significant amount of fraudulent activity that takes place online. As a result, these individuals do not assess the credibility of an application before downloading them. When the fraudulent applications are downloaded on a device, they often contain a virus that harms the phone. Additionally, downloading certain applications can also make the device vulnerable enough to steal personal information. Taking this into account, it is recommended for seniors to research the application’s credibility before downloading it. SENIORS, SHOULD SMARTPHONE USAGE BE LIMITED?

Health concerns

The constant use of smartphones can cause a strain in the neck or the hands. The rate of tendon and nerve damage caused by smartphone-related strain has increased over the years. Therefore, it is recommended for seniors to avoid using their phones for longer durations. Additionally, when the device is being used, make sure to hold the phone at a comfortable angle, so hunching over to see the content can be avoided. In addition to this, the excessive use of smartphones can also result in experiencing a strain in the eyes. Taking this into account, it is essential for seniors to reduce their screen time, so their health and well-being are not compromised.

Limiting your time on the phone can improve your life in many ways. Try going for a walk and enjoy the fresh air. You can also enjoy a coloring book or better yet an activity sent out by your home care company. For seniors, using a smartphone comes with a number of risks. However, if the device is used after implementing the aforementioned solutions, it would not cause any harm to the senior citizens. A phone is a useful tool, that can connect but it can also be a harmful one if overused.

For more senior insights, head back to the My Nurse Family blog.

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