Monday, January 17, 2022
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Smartphone screentime is bad for us – but only if it’s purposeless and compulsive | Bega District News


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If you suspect your smartphone is bad for your mental health, you could be right, but not for the reasons you think. University of Wollongong researcher Zubair Ahmed was part of a team that undertook a systematic review into research on the relationship between smartphone use and health. He said what predicted poor health outcomes for smartphone users was the reason they used the device, rather than the amount of time they spent on it. “It’s very clear if you use a smartphone in an inappropriate way it has negative consequences for your health,” he said. “But inappropriate use is not like drinking excessively, it’s more difficult to quantify. “If you’re using your smartphone for six hours a day for work, but you can put it away when you don’t need it any more, that’s not a problem. Smartphone addiction is more about time spent compulsively betting, gaming or on social media.” READ MORE: Negative consequences can include depression, anxiety or physical pain. Whether or not you’re able to put your phone away for the weekend can indicate if your smartphone use has reached excessive levels. Mr Ahmed said the shifts in attention, from the present moment to the phone, were a problem when they became part of every day life. “Every time you look at social media you shift your attention away from what’s happening around you and potentially start to think about what you’re missing out on,” he said. “We need to stop checking and limit our use of apps like social media, gambling and gaming. We need to think about how we pass idle time without using a phone.” As smartphones are now integral to work and connection with family and friends, balancing their positive uses while minimises their negative effects is key. He said one place to start was a digital detox. That doesn’t mean writing a dramatic status before quitting facebook forever, but taking a couple of days a week where phone use is kept to a minimum. “Digital detox clinics” like those seen in South Korea and China, are another option Mr Ahmed said. For those who would like to reduce their unnecessary smartphone use without checking into a facility, there are now a number of apps available which enable users to limit the time spent on particular apps, or even block out periods of time where they will receive no alerts from their phone at all. Some studies have indicated worrying about the effects of smartphones has greater negative mental health consequences than time spent on the device – so if you don’t feel the need to switch off, don’t stress.

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