Smartwatches and fitness trackers are becoming increasingly popular these days. The benefits of using a smartwatch or fitness tracker are many and varied, but one of the most frequently asked questions is: Are smartwatches safe to wear?
Generally speaking, smartwatches are safe to wear, and it does not cause any harm to humans. However, when we deep dive into the safety of smartwatches, there are two main aspects to consider:
- Are smartwatches a health risk?
- Are smartwatches a security risk?
We will look at both of these aspects in more detail below. At the end of the article on smartwatch safety, you will get a clear idea about the safety of smartwatches.
Are smartwatches a health risk?
There have been many talks about the health risks of smartwatches, but smartwatches are safe! Some people are worried about these devices’ EMF (Electromagnetic) radiation. Still, the truth is that smartwatches emit non-ionizing radiation, which is not harmful to cells or DNA.
“Ionizing radiation is a type of EMF radiation that can cause damage to cells and DNA, which can cause cancer, while non-ionizing radiation is not harmful.”
In fact, you’re exposed to more EMF radiation from your cellphone than your smartwatch. So there is no need to worry about your watch causing any health problems. Of course, some people might still be concerned about other potential health risks associated with smartwatches, such as Bluetooth and WiFi emissions. However, studies have shown that these emissions do not harm human health.
Many people have also asked me about the green light that is emitted by the watch. These green or red lights emit from the sensor of your smartwatch, and your smartwatch uses it to track your heart rate and blood oxygen level(SpO2) in the body. The light is harmless and will not cause any damage to your health. If you want to turn off the green light on the Apple smartwatch, I have a complete guide for you.
In the beginning, there were many misunderstandings about the safety of wearable tech devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. An article published in New York Times in 2015 by Nick Bilton is just an example. The report titled “The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech” creates an impression that these devices are not safe to use and can cause cancer.
However, the studies and research the author quoted in the article were about cellular phones, not smartwatches or fitness trackers. So, the report was entirely baseless and created an unnecessary scare about the health risks of smartwatches. Popular tech publications like The Verge and Science Blog criticized the article and clarified that there is no evidence to support the health concerns raised in the report. Finally, Margaret Sullivan, New York Times Public Editor, was forced to issue a statement the next day.
This incident is just an example of how wearable tech devices have been unnecessarily demonized in the past. However, with more Research on these devices, the misconceptions are slowly being cleared. And it is now widely accepted that smartwatches and fitness trackers are safe to use.
What does Research say about the Health Risks of Smartwatches?
There are many Research has been conducted on the health risks of smartwatches, and most of them have found that these devices are safe to use. Today, smartwatches are used to monitor and study various health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and sleep apnea. These devices are very convenient and provide valuable data that can give you an idea about your overall health and fitness.
For instance, FDA Approved ECG smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit can detect atrial fibrillation(AFib), a severe heart condition, with the help of its sensors. These watches can also monitor heart rate and notify users about an irregular heartbeat. There are many incidents where smartwatches have saved the lives of users by detecting a heart condition and sending an alert to Emergency Services(911).
Authorities like FCC (The Federal Communications Commission) and CE (European conformity) have set strict standards for the amount of EMF radiation that consumer devices can emit, and all smartwatches on the market today fall well below these limits. Before they land on the market, these devices are tested by the respective authorities to make sure they are safe to use. You can see FCC or CE marking on the box and back case of these devices, which is proof that they meet the safety standards set by these Government Authorities and, thus, are safe to use.
Now you know that, in terms of health, smartwatches are safe to wear and do not cause any health issues for a healthy person. However, there are some exceptions that we will discuss in the next section.
Smartwatches and Pacemakers
If you have an implanted electronic device such as a pacemaker, you should avoid wearing a smartwatch. This is because the electromagnetic fields emitted by the smartwatch can interfere with the electrical signals from the pacemaker and cause it to malfunction.
The FDA says that people with a pacemaker should take precautions while using electronic devices such as smartwatches emitting electromagnetic fields. These precautions include:
- Keeping the device at least six inches away from the pacemaker
- Not wearing the device on the same wrist as the pacemaker
- Reach out to your health provider if you have any concerns.
Similarly, the Harward Medical School also warns people with implanted heart devices such as Pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator(ICDs) to take special precautions while using smartwatches and smartphones because it can deactivate the device or cause it to malfunction.
If you have any electronic implants, it is best to avoid wearing a smartwatch. However, consult your health provider and take the necessary precautions if you want to use one.
Is it Bad To Wear a Smartwatch while you sleep?
Since it does not emit dangerous radiation, smartwatches are safe to wear the whole night. In fact, many people use sleep-tracking smartwatches to monitor their sleep patterns. These devices are very convenient and can provide valuable data about your sleep.
Every morning, you can get a sleep score based on your various sleep metrics, such as time spent in deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep, on the companion app. This data can help you understand your sleep patterns and make necessary changes to improve the quality of your sleep.
Smartwatches can monitor sleep apnoea, and Heart Rate Variation(HRV) is some of the other essential sleep metrics. If you notice any abnormalities in your sleep pattern, you can reach out to your Doctor and get it checked.
Is it safe to wear a smartwatch during pregnancy?
Smartwatches are safe to wear during pregnancy. During pregnancy, your mind and body undergo various changes, and it is essential to monitor your health carefully. A smartwatch with Pregnancy Tracking Feature can help track your heart rate, steps taken, and burned calories, and it can also remind you to stay active and take breaks when needed.
For example, the Pregnancy Tracking feature of Garmin wearables can give you valuable information about various aspects of your pregnancy, such as:
- Daily symptoms and mood
- Baby size
- Baby movement
- Tips for exercise and nutrition
- Due date
- Weight gain
- Training status
- Contraction Timer
All these features can help you have a healthy pregnancy and, thus, deliver a healthy and happy baby. If you have further concerns about wearing a smartwatch during pregnancy, contact your Gynecologist for more guidance.
Allergies to Smartwatches
Very rarely, some people may experience rashes, itchiness, or swelling after wearing a smartwatch. For example, the nickel used in some stainless steel watches can cause an allergic reaction in some people. If you experience any allergies after wearing a smartwatch, immediately remove the watch and wash the affected area with soap and water. If the symptoms persist after removing the smartwatch, immediately consult a doctor.
If you are allergic to nickel, check the manufacturer’s website to see if the smartwatch you are planning to buy is made of stainless steel or other materials that may contain nickel. Fortunately, many hypoallergic bands and smartwatches are available in the market, so you can easily find a watch that suits your needs.
A significant cause of Distraction
Smartwatches may not cause direct harm to your health, but they can be a major cause of distraction. For example, if you are driving and get a notification on your smartwatch, there is a high chance that you will take your eyes off the road to check the notification. You are using a smartwatch while driving comes under distracted driving, which is against the law in many countries.
Similarly, if you are operating heavy machinery and look at the smartwatch to see a notification, you may be putting yourself and others in danger. So, you should avoid using a smartwatch during any activity that requires your full attention, and safety should always be your top priority.
Are smartwatches a security risk?
Yes. Smartwatches are a security risk because they can be used to spy on you. Smartwatches are tiny computers with a wealth of information about your health and fitness. This includes your heart metrics, GPS location, and more. This data is valuable to criminals and could be used to commit identity theft, insurance fraud, or other crimes.
Some health insurance companies offer huge discounts for sharing your smartwatch data. They may even give you some discounts on premiums if you do a minimum number of activities daily. However, sharing health data with your insurance company is not a good move since it can be used against you.
If you use a smartwatch GPS, it constantly tracks your location. Smartwatches use GPS to accurately tracks your pace, distance traveled, and location. However, if this data is leaked, it can be used to track your movements and spy on you.
Apple Watch family sharing is an example of how easy it is to track the real-time location of your loved one. If someone hacked into your account, they could easily track the location of your family members. This is a severe security breach that can have dangerous consequences.
How can you protect yourself from smartwatch security risks?
There are various ways to protect yourself from smartwatch security risks.
- Always buy smartwatches from reputed brands like Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, etc.
- Set up a strong password for your account, and never share it with anyone.
- Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Keep your software and firmware up-to-date.
- Be aware of the permissions you are granting to apps.
Smartwatches and Kids
Smartwatches and fitness trackers are not just for adults—plenty of options are available for kids too. These devices can help parents keep track of their child’s location, monitor their activity levels, and more.
But there are many safety concerns associated with kids wearing smartwatches. Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) conducted a study on kids’ smartwatches and found that some are collecting sensitive data like location, fitness, and sleep without the consent of parents or guardians. The NCC also found that some smart watches for kids are easy to hack. So, you must be extra careful when choosing your kid’s smartwatch.
The best way to protect your child’s data is to buy a smartwatch with robust security features. Famous smartwatch makers such as Apple, Fitbit, and Garmin wearables are known for their safety and security features and are a good option for kids.
On top of that, smartwatches from Apple, Fitbit, and Garmin offer family-sharing features that allow parents to monitor and restrict what their children can do on their smartwatches. It works by connecting the smartwatch to the parent’s smartphone through the companion app. Once it is set up, parents can see their child’s activity, location, and more in real-time.
I have an article on the best Apple watches for kids and how to set up family sharing on an Apple Watch. You can check it out for more information.
Conclusion: Are smartwatches safe to wear?
Smartwatches are safe to wear even while you sleep if it has the FCC or CE mark. As of now, there is no evidence to prove that they cause cancer or any harm. The security risks associated with smartwatch use are also very minimal compared to that caused by other devices, such as smartphones.
I hope this article on “Are smartwatches safe to wear” was helpful. Now is the time for you to choose your smartwatch and enjoy its many benefits! We have a handful of smartwatch buying guides that help you choose your smartwatch based on your needs.
Shnisa has been running for over 10 years and cycling for even longer. In his free time, he enjoys exploring new trails and routes. He also likes to experiment with different running and cycling gear, such as shoes, watches, and apps. He loves smartwatches and fitness trackers more, as he believes they make running and biking even more fun!