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The Very Real Dangers of Smartphone Addiction and How to Fight It

Smartphone dependency is at an all-time high in America, and as a culture, we’re slowly forgetting how to function without a device in hand. It’s never been easier to stay in touch with people all over the world, to have steady entertainment at your fingertips, and to receive constant information about things you probably don’t even care about. But does all of this convenience come at a cost that far outweighs the amount you spend on your data plan?

Research says that yes, smartphone addiction is real and that it’s more problematic than Americans want to admit. And unlike other forms of addiction, this one is socially acceptable.

Photo credit: Esther Vargas via Flickr

Neck and Back Pain

There’s a phenomenon known as “tech neck” that results when you’re head and neck are constantly tilted down to look at your phone. This position puts a lot of pressure on the neck and spine, which is leading to more young people having pain in this region.

Finger and Hand Pain

Another common place for smartphone-related pain is the fingers and hands. Some people call this tendinitis, while “text claw” is the trendy name. Too much scrolling and texting isn’t good for the hands, and pain is a clear sign that you need to scale back your screen time.

Reduced Attention Span

More on the mental side of things, a side effect of prolonged smartphone use is reduced attention span. This is especially troubling for young children who already have naturally short attention spans and are routinely put in front of devices to keep quiet and entertained.

Poor Sleep Habits

Staring at a smartphone right before bed is a sure way to reduce your sleep quality. The human body needs time to decompress and disconnect before falling asleep. So, your late-night research may be to blame for why you feel so tired every morning.

Strained Social Relationships

On the surface, it seems like we would be more socially connected to our friends and family with all of the high-tech ways to stay in touch. But actually, the opposite is true. You’ll often see couples out to dinner who are more interested in their smartphones than each other and groups of friends out at a bar who are more concerned with what’s happening on social media than who’s right next to them. We’re forgetting how to have real conversations and feeling lonelier as a result.

Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr

Stress, Anxiety & Depression

This point leads into another danger of smart phone addiction, which is the increased risk of stress, anxiety, and depression. Many people experience FOMO (fear of missing out) and obsessively scroll through their social media accounts to feel relevant and worthwhile. People who use their smartphone for work purposes tend to feel heightened anxiety when emails and instant messages come in, especially outside of normal business hours.

Bacterial Exposure

On more practical terms, our smartphones are downright gross. The average smartphone has more bacteria on the surface than a toilet seat. Think about that next time you’re using your phone during dinner.

Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation

The increasing use of digital phones exposes the user to the high-powered transmission of the radio waves to and from the cellphone tower. Studies are just beginning to show the possible correlation between cellphone use and brain cancer. In addition, if your cellphone is connected to WiFi at home or at work, that is one more additional source of electromagnetic radiation. If you are concerned, a good practice might be turning off your cellphone at night, especially if it is in your bedroom … and even turning off your wireless router at night before going to bed.

How to Fight Smartphone Addiction

It’s pretty scary to think about all of these very real addiction dangers, but it’s not too late to turn things around. The first step is to take a day or two to document your smartphone usage habits. Take note of when you use your phone, for how long, and for what purposes. Make a simple graph if it helps you visualize things. You might be surprised to learn how much time you spend on your phone and how much better that time could be spent!

Then put your smartphone away for a day and see if you have withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, irritability, or cravings. It helps to set limits for your daily smartphone use and to avoid triggers. This may mean leaving your phone in your gym locker rather than taking it to the treadmill or keeping it in your purse during dinner at a restaurant. Consider removing social media apps from your phone so that you only check those accounts while on a computer. Also make a point to schedule more real-life social interactions with the people you love.

Smartphone addiction is very real, but those who suffer from it are not alone. Talk to someone you trust about your addictive behaviors and find someone who will keep you accountable to kicking the habit and living a more fulfilling life.

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