The 21st century brought forth many improvements and changes in people’s life. Most of them were in the electronics department.
The Smartphone especially, with its ability to connect with friends, set appointments, read the news. It has become an integral part of people’s lives. This by itself is not a bad thing, but it gives rise to a growing problem of phone addiction.
In 2007 the mobile landscape changed completely when Apple introduced the first iPhone, a device aimed at the everyday user. This sparked the Smartphone revolution.
At the same time, Andy Rubin was developing his own version of a mobile operating system, which today is known as Android.
Effects of smartphone addiction
In a survey carried out by Deloitte in 2017 about British adult’s phone habits, 38% said they thought they were using their Smartphones too much. Between the ages of 16 and 24, those numbers increase by more than half.
Habits such as checking apps in the hour before bed or in the first 15 minutes after waking up may be taking a toll on people's mental health.
Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist and a spokesperson for National Unplugging Day said “It’s not necessarily the top thing when my clients come it, but it’s often in the mix, tied in with anxiety or insomnia or relationship issues. Particularly when anxiety and insomnias there, it’s rare that it’s not related in some way to heavy use of digital devices.”
Some of the signs of an addiction include the need to use the cell phone more and more often in order to get the same desired effect.
Preoccupation with phone use, and the withdrawal, when one's phone is unavailable, causing feelings such as anger, tension, depression, irritability and restlessness are some of the surest signs of an addiction.
There are some significant neurological events happening when we interact with phone screens. Anna Lembke, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural science at the Stanford University Medical Center, has said that the way we absorb the cool blue glow of a screen is similar to the electricity a drug user may feel.
This is because the Smartphone screens are lighting up the same area of the brain as opioids and cannabis. Children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to the addictive nature of the phones due to the fact that they are in a crucially pliable point in their mental and physical growth.
Physical effects of phone addiction
The overuse of a smartphone can result in a number of different physical problems, some of which may lead to permanent damage or be difficult to treat.
One example is digital eye strain, which is the pain and discomfort associated with viewing a digital screen for over two hours. The user experiences eye fatigue, burning and itching sensation in the eyes along with blurred vision. This can cause headaches.
Psychological effects of phone addiction
Sleep disturbance is one of the more common problems from using a smartphone too much. Use of the device before bed increases the likelihood of insomnia, while the lights from the smartphone decrease the sleep quality by activating the brain and increasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
Other effects include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. Relationship problems may arise due to neglect in favour of excessive smartphone and social media use.
Preventing phone addiction
At the beginning of 2018, two of Apple's investors, New York-based Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers Retirement System sent an open letter to the tech giant about the growing case of phone addiction.
They felt that Apple should do more to fight it. They urged Apple to offer more tools and choices to prevent harm.
Hot on the heels of this letter, Apple recently dedicated a new page on their website dedicated to families. Parents can use the page as a hub for easy access to helpful links on sharing accounts, healthy habits and Apple features created to protect children.
Features include “Ask to buy”, where parents can approve or decline app purchases and downloads from their kids. There are also directions on safe surfing that include options to block adult content and install child-specific browsers.
The “Families” page addresses safety, but it does not do much to prevent the concerns of smartphone addiction and the negative consequences of too much screen time.
This is set to change. During Apple's 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Apple announced that they are taking steps to help people be more aware of how much they use their devices.
The tech giant’s engineers have been working on a series of tools to help monitor the time people are spending on their devices, as well as inside specific apps.
In its developer conference in May, which took place before Apple's conference, Google announced similar tools for phone addiction prevention.
They have developed an “App dashboard” to show how long a person has been on the phone per day and the most used apps.
An “App timer” will enable the user to set a time limit for daily phone usage. After the set limit runs out, the app will grey out and will not be able to relaunch.
There is a “do not disturb” feature on most phones, but it just prevents the user from hearing notifications. The Google version takes out all of the visual indicators, so there would not be any alerts at all. There is also the function to activate this mode automatically when the phone is placed screen down.
Many smartphones have a feature that blocks out the blue light at bedtime.
Google is building upon that with the “wind down” feature, which eliminates the blue light and, as a pre-set bedtime approaches, starts to turn the screen to grayscale, making the apps less tempting. Google is hoping that this will let users “remember to get to sleep at the time (they) want”.
Updates and apps may help some people to use their phones less. This will only happy if people actually use these features. If people do not activate the features, then the solutions will not help much, if at all. Ultimately, the best way to avoid phone addiction is by simply turning the smartphone off.
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