Most of us are guilty of looking at our cell phones too much. For many of us, myself included, our cell phone screens are the last thing we check before we go to bed at night and the first thing we look at in the morning. I see people texting and driving and almost every day I am behind someone at a red light who is looking down when the light turns green. That is particularly annoying.
When you eat out, it is completely normal to see patron’s cell phones at the table by their beverage — also normal to see them checking their device during the duration of their dining experience. You almost never see children (even toddlers) sitting at the table without a tablet or phone as they play a game or watch a show or movie.
So, does our seemingly addictiveness to our devices matter? What is the long-term effect on our minds? A few studies came out recently that might have you re-thinking your cell and device usage — as well as that of your children and grandchildren.
A few studies have linked heavy cell phone use to sleep disturbances, stress and even depression. Although the studies I looked at said they weren’t sure why, I can offer a few possible reasons.
First of all, our devices and their constant offering of information and communication, keep our minds stimulated, or more likely over-stimulated. Sleep experts often say not to watch television before going to sleep since it causes your mind to stay alert instead of winding down for the night. Surely our cell phones and tablets act in the same way. Possibly more-so since their information is directed at us personally.
As far as device usage being linked to depression and stress, the why’s seem obvious. Social media tells young people (and older ones) constantly how wonderful everybody else’s life is. I can imagine young people struggle thinking others are more important, don’t have any problems, or just have a more interesting life than they do.
Of course those games on our phones and devices can be addicting. That just cannot be healthy to interact with a screen all day and night.
I also worry about the communication skills of young people who are glued to their screens 24/7. Most young people don’t even talk on the phone anymore, preferring instead to send text messages.
For readers with young children, a new study just came out saying the children they studied said they felt “sad” and even neglected when mommy and daddy were checking their cell phones. I must admit, I am glad when our four children were young, cell phones were nothing like they are now. We basically had them for “emergencies” on the road. As cell phones got “smarter” we used them more and more.
In some ways, as phones got smarter, we got more dumb. I used to have dozens and dozens of telephone numbers memorized. Now, I am lucky to know my own number and one or two others. That is pathetic. Also, remember when you tried to remember the name of a movie or a song and had to “rack your brain” to do so? Now, in an instant we can search the Internet for an answer. While that does keep you from using your brain power, I wonder if that is as brain-friendly as searching your thoughts?
I do worry about our young people. At least I remember a time before cell phones and instant communication. I worry young people aren’t learning communication skills because they are always looking at a screen and sending short responses, often using letters to abbreviate words.
I worry about children who spend hours and hours in front of screens of all sizes, but don’t run and play outside and use their imaginations. I am so thankful I didn’t have to police all of those devices when we raised our children. And as one of my girlfriends noted recently, thank goodness there was no social media when we were in high school or college.
Please don’t think I am against technology. I absolutely love having information at my fingertips, pretty much any time I want. I also know there is no stopping technological advancements and every generation opines about the past. I just hope parents monitor their children’s use of devices as well as use care when they are role modeling their own time on their phones. Speaking of communication, feel free to email me your thoughts!
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.