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Words from Walstead: Do Smart Phones Make You Stupid?

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This fascinating oxymoron is making our society confused and perplexed. How can something described as ‘smart’ make you ‘stupid’?

When we think of the word ‘smart’ we automatically think of someone quick-witted and intelligent as opposed to the word ‘stupid’ which is defined as ‘slow of mind and a lack of intelligence’. Surely a phone would enhance our minds and allow us to increase our knowledge? How could it possibly make us stupid and injudicious?

The smart phone made its debut in 1992, but the smart phone wasn’t really used until 1995. It has become our mailbox, teacher, consultant, photo album, road map, camera and party line. So why are smart phones thought to be intelligent? We can sit anywhere in the world and receive messages, news results and gain knowledge of anything with a few taps of our thumbs. The impressive technology allows us to communicate instantly with everyone we know, and this has resulted in 3.5 billion smartphone users with a global revenue from smartphone sales of 478.7 billion US dollars (2018).

However, after just under 20 years of use, we are reaching a tipping point. Scientists and psychiatrists claim our smartphones are making us anti-social and unhealthy. How is that possible? And, why can’t we all just put it down? The word ‘smartphone’ may sound technical and advanced, and of course in many ways the phone is smart, but research has found that just having a phone within view or easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks. It is a natural assumption to think that the smartphone will make us smarter but today scientists have begun to uncover something that is both intriguing and disconcerting. While we have greater access to knowledge than ever before, it negatively impacts our intelligence.

Average users look at their phones about 150 times a day, according to estimates, and twice as often as we think we do. Adding it up, a user can spend 3-5 hours a day looking at their smartphones. Their influence continues long after we have put them away. Consider the effect they have on your concentration. They dent concentration and reduce brain power. Despite all the negatives attributed to smartphones, we still haven’t fully understood or accepted how they have interrupted and disturbed our daily lives, social lives and relationships with ourselves. We are now divorced from the world and other people – relationships are now lived through our phones. As the brain grows dependent on technology, the research suggests our intellect weakens.

How can people get away from their buzzing, flashing phones? People keep their phones closely in their pockets, cradled in their hands, or even worse buzzing on their bedside table while they are asleep. Is the reason people become so interested and alert about notifications that ping on their harmful screen because they are desperately insecure and crave positive feedback?

The smartphone draws us in to check the latest messages and emails and are designed to be addictive. Even people who are disciplines in the usage of their smartphone still feel the effect because they exert such a magnetic pull on our minds that just the effect of resisting the temptation to look at them seems to take a toll on our mental performance. This is because smartphone use takes the same amount of cognitive toll as losing a full night’s sleep. Children have become more vulnerable to anxiety and phones even cause parents to ignore their children. These powerful smartphones lead to less family-time and the worry that parents may be missing out on vital bonding time with their children. Billions of people continue to be distracted and turn away from loved ones because of smartphones. How have we let this happen?

We must come up with a way of protecting pupils from a loss of concentration via screens and phones, resulting in a decrease in brain power. We have lost control of our relationship with smartphones. They have persuaded us to give over so much of our lives. We need a balance. We need boundaries. Yes, we have access to more data than ever before but, the information has little meaning. Our brains have lost some vital mental skills such as, learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving and creativity, “Not just our reasoning suffers when phones are around…our social skills and relationships suffer.”

The smartphone pulls our minds away from our actual conversations. Research shows that phones can reduce “the extent to which individuals feel empathy and understanding.” We need to stop this addiction to phones and become a ‘smarter’ generation.

by Bella G, Year 7

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