Last month, a group of researchers funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that smartphone use is connected to increasing teen suicide rates, but more scholarly evidence is suggesting the devices are harming our kids in other ways.
In April, a group of researchers led by University of Texas Adrian Ward assistant professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business published an article in which they assert the mere presence of one’s own smartphone may “occupy limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance.” In other words, it can induce attention-deficit disorder.
The abstract of their report states, in part:
[T]he increasing integration of these devices into the minutiae of daily life both reflects and creates a sense that they are frequently relevant to their owners’ goals; it lays the foundation for automatic attention. Consistent with this position, research indicates that signals from one’s own phone (but not someone else’s) activate the same involuntary attention system that responds to the sound of one’s own name …
When these devices are salient in the environment, their status as high-priority (relevant and salient) stimuli suggests that they will exert a gravitational pull on the orientation of attention. And when consumers are engaged in tasks for which their smartphones are task-irrelevant, the ability of these devices to automatically attract attention may undermine performance.
The report states performance is inhibited by redirecting the user’s orientation of focus away from their task, and by reallocating his or her limited attention resources. They also found the impact is more profound in children and adolescents.
Last month, FOX News Channel technology expert Steve Hilton interviewed Jean Twenge, who has been researching the impact of technology on children and recently published the book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, which concluded it is changing our kids in “deeply fundamental and negative ways.” Hilton’s offered the following suggestions:
- ban smartphones for kids;
- require all smartphone makers to show regular mental health warnings;
- tax phone usage and direct the proceeds towards mental health programs; and
- restrict smartphone use in public spaces.
Hilton admits these won’t fix all the damage done to smartphone users, particularly children, but they can limit the “social harm.”