Dear Dr. Linda,
In one of your columns you warned parents against letting their children have too much screen time. But you neglected to warn parents that they’re just as much at risk of hurting their brains by being on their smartphones all day.
There’s much research out on how smartphones are destroying our brains, adults as well as children and teens. We’re all so busy with eating the right foods and going to the gym and walking our 3 miles a day, but think nothing of being on our phones all day.
You’re right. There is much research going on that is warning adults that not only do they have to protect their children from too much screen time, they also have to protect themselves. Smartphones are just as addictive for adults as they are for teens and kids. On this little metal rectangle, whether you have an Android or iPhone, you can keep in touch with family friends all day, watch your favorite TV shows, take pictures, text, Facetime, go shopping, talk and more. It truly is a miracle and has added much to our lives. In fact, we can’t seem to live without them. We don’t leave home without them.
But now some time has passed and research has come out that warns us of overuse. Yes, this great little gadget has a few downsides that we must respect—just like water. We can’t live without water, but, as we know, too much water can create a flood—which can be destructive.
First, smartphones are addictive. Just sit in a restaurant and watch as each person quickly scans their phone to see if anyone has contacted them between the appetizer and the entrée. Then, there’s a second peek between the entrée and dessert. In one article, it was reported that Apple collected data as to how many times people look at their iPhones per day. It seems unbelievable, but the average was 80 times a day. And besides the addictiveness, these little rectangles have reduced the time families spend together, even contributing to divorces. In other words, some people have become so addicted to them—just as with alcoholism and other addictions—lives have been destroyed.
Secondly, and perhaps even more important, it has been found that these little devices have an impact on the brain and our cognitive capacities. Here, for example, are some alarming facts that have been found in a variety of studies:
• As the brain becomes more and more dependent on all this technology, intellect weakens.
• Attention and concentration are affected when a smartphone rings or sends a notification, even if you don’t answer it or look at it.
• Blood pressure rises.
• The more students rely on their phones, the more often their grades went down. College students who left their phones in the dorms and didn’t bring them to class had higher grades than those who had them with them—even if they didn’t look at them.
We’re just at the beginning of this modern phenomenon. As with all new things, there are good and bad side effects. Enjoy your phones, rely on them for communication when apart, check and send emails that you used to have to return to your desk to send but use them in moderation and help your children develop good habits, too.
Here’s to new technologies and good health!
Dr. Linda is co-author of “Why Bad Grades Happen to Good Kids” and director of Strong Learning Tutoring and Test Prep. If you have any questions you’d like to share with Dr. Linda, email her at Linda@stronglearning.com.