Being attached to our smartphones has become like second nature. We may not even realize just how much our cell phone attachment or addiction is affecting our lives, however.
It can even end up being deadly.
For example, researchers at the University of Washington observed more than 1,000 pedestrians and found around 1/3 of them were distracted by a mobile device at a high-risk intersection. When they were absorbed in their phone, these people were less likely to obey traffic signals or look both ways.
This doesn’t even account for the risks that drivers face behind the wheel as far as their smartphones go.
We are quite literally willing to put our lives at risk so that we never have to be away from our phones.
Understanding these risks, as well as some of the other effects of smartphone addiction, may be the push you need to make a change. The following are some of the ways cell phone addiction could be potentially affecting your life, outside of just the risks it poses for drivers and pedestrians.
Smartphone Addiction Affects Your Brain
Your brain is physically affected by your constant smartphone attachment.
The regions in your brain that are called grey matter have been shown to change in shape and size in people with a social media addiction. The effects of the phone on your brain are the same as what’s seen in drug and substance addiction.
Researchers have discovered a dopamine connection with the overuse of smartphones. When you’re on your phone, there are cues that trigger the release of dopamine, which is also what happens when you use drugs.
You may get so used to checking your phone for likes, comments, and updates that it becomes a repetitive cycle of addiction. Your brain rewards each check-in you do with more dopamine.
We all want to be the best possible parents when we have children. Unfortunately, smartphones can have a very detrimental effect on how we parent.
Most of us are so glued to our phones that we’re never fully present with our kids. Our attention is always divided, and that means not only are we missing out on our kids’ childhoods, but it can create emotional problems in children.
Children need to feel like there are times when they’re getting their parents’ full, undivided attention. Without that, they may feel emotionally neglected or like they’re less important than their parents’ social media.
Until around a decade ago, we were fairly disconnected from information unless we were maybe watching TV or on our computer. We had to actively seek out information.
Now we are constantly connected to information, including news. It is very easy to get wrapped up in what’s going in the world at large but not be as cognizant of what’s going on in our own surroundings.
Information overload can create anxiety or depression, and it can cause you to give up other areas of your life.
Our relationships with friends, romantic partners, and family members are suffering because of smartphone use. Because we’re always connected to our phones, we might start to value those virtual relationships more. Just like children can feel neglected when their parents are absorbed in their phones, other people in our lives can feel similarly.
How Do You Know If You’re Addicted to Your Phone?
One of the big signs that you might have problematic phone use issues is when you’re using your phone in a situation that’s dangerous to do so, as was highlighted above.
For example, if you’re crossing a busy intersection on foot and you’re still only looking at your phone, you could be showing signs of problematic use.
The same is true if you’re driving and can’t seem to put your phone down, despite knowing how dangerous it is to you, your passengers, and other people on the road.
Other signs of a phone addiction or problematic smartphone use include:
- As soon as you’re bored or the moment you wake up, you reach for your phone first thing
- You wake up throughout the night and check your phone
- You feel upset or anxious when your phone isn’t close by
- You have gotten hurt or been in an accident because of your phone
- The time you spend using your phone is increasing
- Your phone seems to be interfering with your productivity or causing problems at work or in relationships
- You try to limit your use, but you aren’t successful
If you notice these signs in yourself, it’s important to start taking steps to break your addiction.