Human connection is the most vital aspect of our existence, without the sweet touch of another being we are lonely stars in an empty space waiting to shine gloriously. – Joe Straynge
With classes starting up again, students have flooded back onto campus. Since Michelle and have decided to dedicate this month to writing about technology and social media, my attention has focused on a disturbing occurrence that can be seen everywhere on campus; students glued to their smartphones. I admit that I myself am on my phone constantly. But are we addicted to them? Smartphone addiction has garnered considerable attention as of late, due to its potential to lead to addiction. Smartphones can even more addictive than TV because of its mobile nature.
Addiction to smartphones can be defined as excessive preoccupations and urges of behavior that can lead to psychological distress and impairments in daily life. For example, someone addicted to their phone may check it constantly and experience separation anxiety when not able to check notifications. Media addiction can lead to depression, decreased well-being, and substance use. Further, the more you become addicted, the more likely you are to lose social ties, thus inducing loneliness. Losing social ties can also then make social media engender more feelings of loneliness, because you then do not have anyone to connect with online either. This can turn into a deadly cycle. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, loneliness is a strong predictor of poor health outcomes.
There are several factors that could contribute to smartphone addiction. The first is self-control. As you can probably guess, low self-control is associated with smartphone addiction. Low levels of self-control may also cause compulsive checking of social media sites (i.e. repeatedly refreshing Facebook notifications to see if anyone wrote on your wall or liked your new selfie). Stress is also positively associated with smartphone use; surfing the web can be used as a form of stress relief. The inverse can also be considered, such that constantly checking your phone can be a distraction to daily tasks, and not getting this work done can cause stress.
One recent study looked at how different apps on the phone may predict smartphone use. They found that social media, games, and other forms of entertainment predicted smartphone addiction. Of these, social media was the strongest predictor of addiction. In other words, the essential component of smartphone addiction is use of sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Here’s one more fact about this study that is greatly concerning; this study was done on 6th graders! More specifically, participants were 6th graders from an elementary school in South Korea. Researchers found that, in South Korea, 72% of children own a smartphone by 12 years old. This is similar to children in the United States, where almost 60% of kids aged 8-12 have a smart phone for themselves. Further, 21% of children in the U.S. under 8 years old use smartphones.
Smartphone addiction is a great concern, and even more concerning is how young people are becoming addicted to their smartphones. As individuals become more involved with this addiction, they spend more time on it and eventually lose touch with the outside world. Human connection is important for both physical and mental well-being, and we lose this when we spend more time on our phone than interacting with those around us.
Jeong, S. H., Kim, H., Yum, J. Y., & Hwang, Y. (2016). What type of content are smartphone users addicted to?: SNS vs. games. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 10-17.
For stats on smartphone use in kids: