By: Brett Harmon
How often do you catch your friends walking with their heads down looking at their phones on the way to class, at the dinner table or when you’re just casually hanging out? Smartphones are an integral part of our everyday life, providing us with almost anything we can think of. Most of us don’t realize the dangers associated with being attached to your mobile device, and surely enough it’s quickly becoming an issue among all age groups worldwide.
Okay, so this doesn’t mean you can’t bring your smartphone around with you, using it for essential functions, but limiting how much you use your device will help you stay faraway from becoming addicted.
I spoke with Hilary Kalagher, the Chair of the Psychology Department, at Drew University regarding smartphone addiction emerging worldwide and how smartphones have become a necessity in our lives over the past decade.
“It interferes with our ability to have sustained attention on something,” Professor Kalagher said. “And it negatively impacts the quality of our sleep that can lead to a lot of downstream negative consequences”.
Some of these consequences can be avoided when we use our mobile devices the right ways, bringing benefits in school and for adults in their jobs. “There’s lots of apps you can use to track how much time you’re spending on your phone and that’s a good first step. It’s like starting a new diet,” said Professor Kalagher.
“Just putting the phone away and getting used to it not being with you, is another point of action that we can all learn from,” she said.
Distractions in class and difficulty paying attention are directly linked to students using their smartphones in class. A recent study at Stanford University conducted on around 259 college students found that social media and online activity was directly linked to the students being distracted, less able to filter out distractions, and more likely to be distracted by irrelevant information. The inability to pay attention in class leads to reductions in students learning. There are ways to incorporate smartphones into the classroom although more often than not they become distractions than they provide learning support for the majority of students.
According to the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of teens say they feel addicted to their mobile device. A whopping 77 percent of parents say their teens get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they’re together. The crave to text back a friend, check social media and use their mobile device is stimulating the brains of teenagers and adults worldwide. Professor Kalager said, “We are a generation that’s much more comfortable texting someone than making a phone call and actually talking to someone. I worry about seeing a group of friends out to dinner and all of them looking down at their cell phones.” Our society has lost interest in having face-to-face conversations with other people.
Ever find yourself having trouble falling asleep and getting enough rest before work the next day? Your smartphone is most likely keeping you up longer and changing your body’s natural sleep cycles. “The whole sleeping system gets disrupted,” said Professor Kalagher. These night time technology addictions make us take longer to fall asleep, decrease sleep quality and make it more difficult for you to get up the next day. Sleeping away from your phone and putting it away from your bed will help you avoid these nighttime effects.
Furthermore, getting attached to your phone has other effects on our well-being and mental health. Some of these negative effects include increased depression, anxiety, sluggish energy and decreased brain functioning (which is serious if your attending college and have class the next day).
The blue violet light coming from smartphones and laptops is potentially hazardous and toxic to the back of your eyes, according to Andy Hepworth, an optician at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom. He raised awareness about the potential damages of being attached to your device before bed. “It’s the combination of not blinking enough and bringing the device closer than you normally look at objects. It strains your eyes,” Hepworth pointed out.
“As technological advances continue, we are going to see new ways to become distracted and I think it’s going to take a real effort for people not to be so reliant on technology,” Professor Kalager said. It’s about how we can avoid getting attached to these devices and finding ways to get things done and enjoy life without using our mobile devices.
Our dependence on smartphones for learning and communication isn’t a bad thing until we find ourselves addicted. Smartphones make for easier communication and tremendous learning opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. Make an effort to limit the use of social media, games and other addicting apps that keep you staring down at the blue light coming from your phone. Most people couldn’t live without these devices and may feel paranoid without having their smartphone, leading me to believe this is what our future generation is veering towards. Balancing technology with the rest of your life and restraining from any bad habits will help you to avoid the dangers from smartphone addictions.
Brett is a Computer Science major
Graphic by Caroline Polich