Your smartphone is making you stupid, antisocial and unhealthy. So why can’t you put it down?

The Globe and Mail:

The evidence for this goes beyond the carping of Luddites. It’s there, cold and hard, in a growing body of research by psychiatrists, neuroscientists, marketers and public health experts. What these people say – and what their research shows – is that smartphones are causing real damage to our minds and relationships, measurable in seconds shaved off the average attention span, reduced brain power, declines in work-life balance and hours less of family time.

They have impaired our ability to remember. They make it more difficult to daydream and think creatively. They make us more vulnerable to anxiety. They make parents ignore their children. And they are addictive, if not in the contested clinical sense then for all intents and purposes.

I don’t buy the full doom and gloom of the article but an overreliance on smartphones in any number of ways is definitely something to be watchful of. I see it in my “new” 12-year-old stepson. He’s “addicted” not to Facebook or Instagram or other social media but he’s very attached to gaming on his iPhone, so much so that it causes significant amounts of family friction.



  • The Cappy

    Long ago when the tobacco lords were in front of congress, they got excoriated after one of them said tobacco wasn’t addictive. It was to me, and to most everyone else, a patently absurd assertion. But what hardly ever got reported was the argument he used. He compared it to chocolate. There are people who indulge in it to excess, even when it’s clearly harming their health. There’s no withdrawal syndrome in the sense there is with cocaine or alcohol. So if chocolate cake isn’t addictive, then tobacco isn’t addictive… Now of course, we want to call everything an addiction if it causes people to indulge in it to their own detriment. Personally, I don’t know where to draw the line. But it bothers me to see people eager to expand the definition of addition. Where exactly do you stop? Is there, in the end, only going to be a handful of approved activities and everything else will require paternalistic restriction & supervision?

  • Who says I can’t put it down?

    Edit: I’ll admit it’s hard RIGHT THIS INSTANT. My work assignment at the moment is looking to see if a bug in our app is still there. 🙂

  • AJ

    My kids love their hand me down iPhones – on the weekends. Sometimes they can’t put it down. But sometimes they do put them down without prompting them, to play with each other or do other things like draw or build. I don’t think they are addicted, but simply occupying their time. I’m sure if I gave them a Nintendo Switch or PS4 they’d be on there as well.

  • James Hughes ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ”

    Weren’t there these same studies for TV? At least now there’s some interaction. My phone is for reading books, the news, watching something on Amazon or Netflix. Less so for program watching though. My use case may not be typical though, I stopped playing games after the first Ghost recon came out. But even then, wasn’t my time taken up that way?

  • JimCracky

    Device addiction is a really complex set of circumstances.

  • Helper Monkey

    Or maybe the phone just gives the stupid, antisocial and unhealthy an excuse?