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Are You "Addicted" To Your Electronic Devices?
With the invention of portable devices like smartphones, it is now possible to be connected to the Internet, literally 24 hours a day. This is generally a good thing. I have a smartphone and I often wonder how I ever got along without it. I no longer need to worry about missing an important email from a client and it’s a great way to kill time when you’re waiting in line. But like any good thing, it’s important not to go overboard.
Just last month, my husband went on a bike trip with some friends. During the trip he looked over to see one of the guys he was riding with texting away on his motorcycle, clearly not paying attention to where he was going. This seems like an insane thing to do and yet we hear about this sort of thing all the time. Hearing stories like this makes me wonder if electronic device addiction is a bigger problem than most people think?
Being “addicted” to an electronic device like a smartphone seems really silly, but it is possible. These devices are considered “psychoactive”, meaning that using them can alter our mood and create pleasurable feelings. We enjoy getting emails, text messages and social networking site updates, but we never know they are coming. This often causes us to check our phones constantly. In some cases this checking can become extreme resulting in a person checking his/her phone in inappropriate or dangerous situations like in a board meeting or while driving a car. In these cases device use may be getting out of control.
Signs of unhealthy electronic device use:
- You are staying up too late using devices. If you want to go to bed early but you are compelled to stay up and interact with people on your electronic device until the wee hours of the morning night after night, this could indicate a problem. This is especially troublesome for adolescence. A study done in 2004 showed that teen and tween students with electronics in their room, get significantly less sleep than their counterparts who do not have electronic devices in their room. This study was done before the invention of smartphones so it’s more than likely that this sleep deficit has increased. Having a distinct cut off time for electronic devices of all kinds is critical if you are to maintain a healthy relationship with them.
- Your device use has unintended consequences in your family life. We have all done it as parents, your child is tugging on your pant leg trying to tell you a story and you’re responding “ah huh”, obviously not paying attention. I often found myself doing this trying to check my emails on my iphone when I first got it. After a while though, I started to realize that this was having a negative effect on my children, causing them to act up more than normal in order to get my attention. Once I understood that my smartphone use was affecting my family, I started to make a conscious effort not to use it while I was spending time with them.
- Your electronic device use is creating a potentially dangerous situation. Just like you wouldn’t read a book or fire up you lap top while driving, you also shouldn’t use your phone to check emails or send text messages. This obviously creates a dangerous situation and is clearly a sign that your device use is unhealthy. I’m sure the person you’re getting in touch with would much rather wait for your message than have you risk getting in an accident just to get in touch with them.
How to get device use under control:
- Realize that the world won’t end if you don’t pick up your phone. When your phone or other device beeps at you, indicating you have a text message, email or phone call, the urge to pick it up can be great, even if you are in a situation where picking up may not be appropriate. Before you pick up, try and put it into perspective. Is it really that important to answer this or can it wait? In most cases people will be able to wait for your response.
- Set aside some time to get unplugged. It can feel as though in the span of a day, we go from one device to another. From our phone to our computer to our TV, we can easily spend our entire day “plugged-in.” This is why scheduling some time to turn all your electronic devices can be so important. Whether it’s a day on the weekend or by a certain time each night, setting aside some time for yourself or your family without the use of electronic devices is key. Although sometimes we fail to realize it, there is often a certain amount of stress involved with electronic device use. Turning them off can actually be a relaxing way to spend time and it will help to recharge your own batteries.
Keep in mind that I am not an addiction specialist, and I’m using the term “addiction” very loosely. I would imagine that almost everyone reading this has done something on the “unhealthy” device list above from time to time. I certainly have. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are addicted to your electronic devices, but I think it is important to take a hard look at these behaviors and realize that there can be serious consequences to them. Electronic devices like smartphones are an extremely useful technology, but they can become a distraction. If they do become a distraction, remember, you do have the power to turn them off.
Further Reading On Smartphone and Device Addiction:
Milly Welsh - Priority Learning
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