Morning Zen Guest blogger ~ Amy Williams
People are increasingly dependent on their handheld devices. In the past ten years, cell phones have become a fashion accessory, communication staple, and boredom buster. However, some researchers believe that Smartphones are becoming addictive to many and impacting users negatively in certain, key ways.
Here is a quick rundown of how invasive Smartphones can be in our daily lives:
- 90% of adults own a cell phone with 58% of them owning Smartphones
- 98% of people between the ages of 18-29 own cell phones
- 56% of children between the ages of 8 to 12 were given their own cell phones
- 3 minutes after delivery is when 90% of all texts are read
- 29% of cell phone owners admit that their phone is the last item they look at every night and the first thing they grab for in the morning
- 37% of the population need to check their cell phones at a minimum of every 30 minutes
- 34% of this group can only last a couple of hours without using their phone
The biology of smartphone addiction
The rapid images, messages, and fast-paced apps of a Smartphone create a good feeling in the people who use them, similar to the effects of dopamine. This eventually builds a tolerance to our hyper-connected world, which makes people crave it more and more. This officially becomes an addiction when it impacts a person’s ability to function and they experience withdrawal when their device is removed.
Smartphone addiction is similar to “Internet Use Disorder” and can cause measurable brain changes in a human. This preoccupation with the Internet or a device can impact the cellular connections in the front lobe region which controls attention, judgment, and emotion.
It also changes the dopamine levels in a brain and researchers are beginning to notice that addicts might naturally have genetic variations or compromised dopamine receptors that leave some people more vulnerable to Smartphone or Internet addictions. Like any addiction, Smartphones can alter the way a brain functions.
Signs and symptoms your child has a problem
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you or your child’s Smartphone use has crossed the line into addiction territory:
- Have you ever felt checked your phone, because you imagined that you felt it vibrate?
- Do you sleep with your phone on your pillow or a nightstand next to your bed to avoid missing calls or updates?
- Is your phone the first thing you grab for in the morning?
- Would losing your phone be considered a catastrophe?
- Do you feel anxious when your phone isn’t within reach, or it is charging?
- Have you noticed that you are losing friendships or relationships because you are preoccupied with your phone?
- Are you losing weight? Do you skip meals because you are busy with your device?
Steering away from smartphone addictions
If you answered the majority of the questions with a “yes”, you might be developing an unhealthy relationship with your Smartphone. Thankfully, there are a few strategies to help weaken the dependence on your devices.
Listed below are a few suggestions to help keep your Smartphone usage from turning into a real problem:
- Be aware of your usage. Make a conscious decision to unplug and focus on face-to-face interactions. Awareness is a great first step in addressing any problem.
- Reclaim your dinner table. Leave the phone off and away from the table. Enjoy a meal without snapping photos of the entree or commenting on everyone else’s supper.
- Power down your phones while driving or walking. Avoid distractions and keep everyone safe.
- Create a designated time period every day that is set aside for using your Smartphone. Use this time to unwind and enjoy your device. You may prefer to use it during 15-minute breaks or for an hour while dinner cooks. The main thing to remember is that when your time is up: the phone is put down.
- Seek new hobbies or activities to keep your mind off the Smartphone. Use positive substitutions to help fill the void.
- Monitor a child’s Smartphone. If you are worried about your children overusing their Smartphones, stay updated on his or her interactions.
According to the latest research, only 10% of people can truly be classified as Smartphone addicts. Even though the medical community is still debating if Smartphone addiction is a real behavioral addiction, it is agreed that a lot of people might rely heavily on their phones.
This preoccupation might not be a real addiction, but it can be damaging to relationships and negatively influence life.
Amy Williams is a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. She believes that, in our digital age, it's time for parents and educators to make sure parents and students alike are educated about technology and social media use. You can follow her on Twitter.