Here in the UK, there is increased concern about the growing addiction of all ages to their smart phones.
And yes, it is not only the young.
A popular BBC family show called The One Show
followed a family with mother, father and two teens for several days to monitor their smart phone use. It found that over a weekend, the family were on their smart phones for a grand total of thirty hours. For example on the Sunday, the teenage son topped the list with nine hours on various social media, the teenage daughter spent a total of seven hours on Snapchat, the father was engrossed for three hours but for the majority of that time talking on the phone and the mother just half an hour (mostly Facebook).
The family (and the parents in particular) have now decided that enough is enough and that they need to wean themselves during the coming summer. The viewers were encouraged to come up with their ten top tips to become less dependent on their smart phones.
That top ten list
The TV show is planning on continuing to monitor the family during the summer to see how it all pans out.
What research has found
While many will argue that too much screen time impacts your social life, and even dulling the way you experience the world, research has also pinpointed that spending too much time on your phone may even cause health problems.
While it would be unrealistic to give up screen time entirely, here are some important reasons why smart phone users should consider spending less time on their phones:
Screens can be bad for the eyes with the rate of nearsightedness in the USA for example having risen from 25% to 41.6% in just the last 30 years. There is even a new eye condition called computer vision syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain, symptoms of which include: blurred vision; difficulty focusing; light sensitivity; sore back and neck; migraines or headaches; and/or dry eyes. One great way you can help to reduce the strain on your eyes is to follow the twenties rule. Look up from your screen every twenty minutes at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds, helping you to reduce eye strain and avoid many complications related to prolonged screen time.
Screen time can increase anxiety. The speed of technology can make you anxious when you try to answer every message, catch every notification and manage all the tasks at once.
Losing relationships with studies showing that people can spend more time on their smart phones than they do with their spouses or partners. It becomes important to manage consumption of electronic media so that social relationships aren’t ruined or damaged on a daily basis.
Affecting sleeping patterns. Researchers warn that if people want to have a good night's sleep, they need to stop fiddling with their phones at least an hour before bed. “The more screen time, the worse the quality of sleep,” said Gregory Marcus, co-author of research from the University of California, San Francisco. In addition, smart phones emit blue light which suppresses the hormone melatonin. Melatonin starts to work a few hours before bedtime and acts as your body's signal to prepare for sleep. Melatonin is vital but it is only produced during darkness. Light stimulates that part of the brain that tells the pineal gland to decrease the melatonin level when it is daytime and to increase it when it is night time and dark.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) and probably one of the main reasons why people constantly check their phones. A leading expert on this phenomenon says “Constantly checking a smartphone can lead to rewards, and this links into internal level reinforcement. This ‘reward’ system, such as receiving messages from friends and family, or somebody sharing new content, makes that person feel good.”
Cognitive failure where the more time people spent on their smart phones, the more likely they were to miss important appointments, to daydream and to fail to notices signage in roads. They became less able to filter out irrelevant material and to focus on the task in hand. We have all seen videos of pedestrians walking with smart phone in hand and all their attention directed to the screen - with some disastrous results.
Smart phone use can become a form of addiction. New research from the University of Derby in the UK says: "Smartphone use (and its related psychological characteristics) can mean that the more you use your phone, the higher the risk of becoming addicted." This addiction can be why drivers still continue to drive and use their phones in spite of all the publicity, putting themselves and other road users at great risk.