Psychological Research on the Dangers of Smartphone Abuse
There is no doubt that smartphone technology bring us a great deal of advanced technological access to a world of information and communication. There is a downside. Recent research published by The American Psychological Association in March, 2017, and opinions in The Atlantic warn of potential and actual biopsychosocial dangers of excessive smartphone use. By now most of us realize that smartphone use is a strongly reinforced habitual behavior, a habitual behavior that results in huge profits for the industry. Like so much else in American commerce, the profit incentive takes precedent over the health of the people using the products. Here are some things the researchers discovered. Most of these findings resulted from heavy, addictive use of smartphones (on 24/7, spending many hours a day connected, loss of sleep to remain connected, rising anxiety when not connected, etc.). Here is a list of possible problems to consider quite seriously.
Do any of these reflect your own relationship with your smartphone? Here is the list:
- Reduced self-care;
- Impact on one’s sense of well-being;
- Sleep problems;
- Fear of missing out leading to compulsive use (self-medicating anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc.);
- Anxiety within 10-20 minutes without smartphone use;
- Reduced face-to-face communications (remember your mirror neurons);
- Interference with “real” interpersonal relationships;
- Higher levels of distraction (how is your ADHD doing), and problems with attention and concentration;
- Stronger array and generalization for bullying;
- Compulsive, habitual use via behavioral conditioning process;
- Use of persuasive technology to get users “hooked” on their smartphones (there is a Persuasive Technology Lab);
- Brain hijacking via brain stem and limbic reactivity;
- Possible classical conditioning along with obvious instrumental conditioning via smartphone use behavior and environmental cues;
- Obsessive-compulsive smartphone checking (up to 150 times a day in some cases);
- Possible additional psychological health risks for people with anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.;
- Possible added stressors regarding the need to keep up, not miss anything; and,
- Possible iPhone disorders (see the next psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – DSM-6).
The research and opinions suggest that there is an important human need to “take back your control.” Here are ways to reduce your smartphone’s control OVER your life.
- Make conscious, mindful choices to use your smartphone less – and save money while you do so.
- Retrain yourself NOT to be the rat in the cage pecking away for reinforcement (the behavioral psychology story).
- Consciously time-out/limit your smartphone use.
- Clarify expectations that you will NOT be available via smartphone 24/7 or for immediate responses.
- Silence all notifications.
- Protect your precious sleep time by totally unplugging.
- Be more active interpersonally in the real world of human relations. Spend more time with people, not smartphones.
- Do not open the device without clear intention (Tristan Harris – Time Well Spent).
- Perhaps influencing smartphone companies and engineers to have a “do no harm’ ethics code.
- Doing more meditation, yoga, exercise instead of smartphone use.
- NEVER text, email, or talk while driving.
For more information refer to Weir, K. (March 2017). (DIS) – Con Nected. The Monitor on Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. See also Top Concentrations Killers. WebMD, March 7, 2017. Also refer to Harris, T. (November, 2016). The Binge Breaker. The Atlantic.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness