We all know mobile phones can be addictive, whether it’s games or social media. But how far has this compulsion to check our devices gone? PCP spoke to a former client, and mother of two, regarding mobile phones and their usage. Here’s what she told us:

If your in your 30’s or older growing up was a very different experience to childhood today. As a 40 something, mother of two, I often compare my childhood to my children’s in terms of social interaction.

First thing I notice is that the majority of their social interaction is conducted on their smartphone. This concerns me greatly for several reasons. I wonder if their friendships are real? Who are they interacting with? Are they going to be socially unskilled when they are adults? Who are their major influencers?

As a parent, I know I am not alone in my concerns around how my children are digitally influenced and dare I say it, even manipulated. Personally, I try to limit “screen time” both on smartphones and gaming. I am all too aware of the dangers, the escapism from emotions and reality, and the addictive potential that smartphones have to offer. I too have experienced my own battles with phone-life balance as an adult.

Why Are Smartphones So Addictive?

Technology today means we are able to access online gaming, social media, online gambling, shopping, forums, news, internet, take photos, watch videos, text, message, and call people at anytime we want, regardless of where we are or what we are doing.

Apps that are made for android and smartphones are designed to be interactive and to keep us coming back for more. In fact, wireless smartphones have taken over how we communicate today, so much so, if your not wireless your not connected.

It is not the actual phones that cause a smartphone addiction, they are merely the carrier for the apps, games and businesses that are designed to get you hooked.

With so many ways to express our every thought, feeling, emotion and action such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram LinkedIn and the likes, we are never short of a means for an emotional outlet or escape. Our phones have become an extension of us; the games, apps and sites we use demand our undivided attention.

Addiction to smartphones comes in the form of dopamine and serotonin being released into the brain every time an individual interacts with their phone. These organic feel-good chemicals are what creates the brains attachment to the smartphone.

Not all addictions involve substances, some involve an activity that releases powerful feel-good chemicals into the brain. The more the chemicals are released through a particular activity the more the brain becomes dependent on that activity in order to stimulate the chemical’s release.

Addiction develops through repeated exposure and is progressive in nature, so if you are experiencing uncomfortable levels of interaction with your phone it is a good idea to address the matter sooner rather than later.

33% of Smartphone Users Prioritize Their Phone Over People

Motorola phone company conducted a study earlier this year to find out exactly how many people are addicted to their phones. The results were alarming but not altogether surprising.

The study revealed the following key findings:

  • 33% of respondents prioritized their smartphone over engaging with people they care about and want to spend time with
  • Of the younger generation, 53% of respondents described their smartphone as their “best friend”
  • Most individuals do want help with phone-life balance. 61% of participants agreed that they wanted help to get the most out of their phone and their life – in balance
  • 60% said that they felt it important to have a separate life from their phones, meaning that 40% very much live their life through their phones and do not see not having a separate life, as important

Behavioural Problems Identified Indicating Smartphone Addiction

Motorola’s study also unearthed key smartphone related behavioural problems, indicating possible smartphone addiction.

These behaviours and key findings were identified as:

  • Compulsive Checking: 49% agree that they check their phone more often than they would like. With 6 out of 10 respondents being of the younger generation age group
  • Excessive Phone Time: 35 % agreed that they are spending too much time using their smartphone and 34% believe they would be happier if they spent less time on their phone.
  • Emotional Overdependence: 65 % admitted they “panic” when they think they have lost their smartphone, 3 out of 4 of these individuals are of the younger generation. 29% agreed that when they are not using their phone they are “thinking about using it or planning the next time I can use it.”

Smartphones Ruin Your Sleep And Your Health

Harvard Medical School published a feature on their own smartphone findings and how the blue light affects our sleep. Their findings show that smartphones are keeping us awake at night and affecting our health.

They said: ‘While the light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppresses melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).”

Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher said: “Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.”

This research coupled with numerous studies into the usage of the average smartphone user, suggests that 10% of smartphone users have an addiction to checking their phone.

Mobile Phone Usage and Addiction

Treatment For Smartphone Addiction

If you are worried that you or a loved one have a problem with smartphones that require professional treatment, there is help available. Getting to the root causes of why an individual seeks comfort through a phone rather than facing their own reality is helpful.

Abstinence, a change in the phone and a therapeutic environment such as a rehab or counselling facility can all help with this process of overcoming a smartphone addiction.

If you are a parent who is concerned over your child developing or having an addiction to a smartphone, we suggest controlled use. This may mean monitoring screen time, periods of abstinence through confiscation or complete abstinence if other methods fail.

Reintroducing your child to life and socialising through healthier means will help them to adjust and begin to participate in real life once more.

Sources and References