The Growing Problem Of Smartphone Addiction
The smartphone has become embedded in modern society. As these hand-held gadgets have diminished in size and increased in functionality, they have become an indispensable aspect of living. For the most part, people embrace smartphones because they make lives easier. With new apps flooding the market all the time, we can use them to do everything from learning foreign languages to signing up to matchmaking services in order to find a love.
For some, the allure of that tiny screen can become impossible to ignore. It’s not a case of being addicted to the gadget itself, but they feel the need to be immersed in the virtual world it allows 24/7 access to. It can undoubtedly become an issue.
How serious is this ‘addiction’
Addiction is an emotive word. For anyone in the medical profession dealing with the fallout of drug, alcohol, gambling or pornography abuse, the prospect of a young person whining because their schoolteacher confiscated their smartphone must seem rather trivial. Yet there are certain similarities with the way a repetitive behavior bringing instant gratification can become a habit.
Substance abuse issues are such a longstanding issue, numerous studies have been done into their background. Scientists understand how the brain is stimulated by various activities. In order to wean addicts off certain drugs, less-harmful substitutes have been introduced. Librium will cause an alcoholic to feel physically ill should they attempt drinking to excess. In time, more intense research might be done to reveal if there are chemical triggers related to excessive smartphone use. But the problem is, there are so many grey areas. Even people who would never consider themselves remotely addicted might break out in a cold sweat when they realize their smartphone is still in their gym locker, or in a desk at work.
What are the signs
Unlike someone with an increasing drug dependency, who will often attempt to conceal the situation, the opposite is the case with disproportionate smartphone use. The gadget will always be by someone’s side, poised for them to react to the latest Snapchat post like some wild west gunfighter before a draw. Whenever they are in situations where ‘switch off your mobile’ signs are prominently displayed, such as a hospital or a movie theater, they will pay no heed to this. In some instances, the phone might be switched to silent, but it is still there, omnipresent; and the moment it vibrates the film will be forgotten about for those precious seconds it takes to check out the tiny screen.
There are so many apps and games available for smartphones, many of which will actually be promoted for the very reason they are ‘addictive.’ If you have a friend or partner who is constantly missing out on aspects of conversation because they are focused on getting to the next level of the artificial drama unfolding in their smartphone screen, it might be time to have a word with them.
For parents or teachers, the catch-all solution can be simply to remove the phone for periods of time. There might be a modicum of complaint, but the culprits need to be reminded it is for their own good. A pupil using their phone surreptitiously in a classroom is not going to learn anything. There will be a health impact on any child playing games long into the night rather than sleeping.
Unlike what might be termed ‘clinical additions’, such as drugs or alcohol, smartphone cravings are relatively superficial. The situation can be tackled with constructive criticism and encouraging the person involved to participate in real, interactive activities with friends and family.