Can smartphone use lead to addiction?

by Clayton Noblit

In today’s world, cell phones are everywhere. People use them to talk, text, watch movies, you name it. College students  more than most. But you may be surprised how much more.

At lunchtime in front of the UNC Student Union, students are everywhere, and so are cell phones. Outlined in pants pockets, being held in hands, and attached to earbuds, almost no student is without one. Two young women are sitting talking to each other, both holding their phones with one earbud in their ear.

“Hi, my name is Rachel. I’m from Wilmington, North Carolina, and I’m a sophomore.”

“I’m Shaza. I’m from Garner, North Carolina and I’m also a sophomore.”

Rachel Posey and Shaza Gaballah agree that activities on their phones take up a lot of their time.

“I would say five hours a day probably. Listening to music and watching Netflix,” Posey said.

“Music, social media, I guess texting,” Gaballah said.

Posey and Gaballah are not unusual in how much time they spend on their phones. In fact, according to researcher James Roberts of Baylor University, they are on the lower end of the spectrum.

“Women reported spending an average of ten hours or six hundred minutes a day on their cell phone,” Roberts said. “You know, you can think that’s more time than they’re spending sleeping, and men were spending on average seven and a half hours a day.”

Roberts conducted a study where he surveyed one hundred and sixty-four college students about their phone habits. He found that the obsession with phones may have gone further than most of us think.

“What we found, in our research and the research of other people in this area, that the substance addictions share some of the same core components that what we call cell phone addiction, behavioral addictions, have as well,” Roberts said.

Roberts found that college students use cell phones to modify their moods, use them more and more as their tolerance builds, and even experience withdrawal.

“Have you ever lost your phone, or tried to go without your phone for a certain amount of time?” Roberts said. “Then you went into a tizzy, you know, anxiety and tense and stressful, and maybe even panic. Cell phone users have displayed those same withdrawal symptoms in drug addicts and alcoholics.”

The biggest concern for college students, says Roberts, is how cell phone addiction could affect their academic pursuits. He found that increased cell phone use led to poorer performance in the classroom. Something Senior Sam James says he can understand.

“The things that’s unique about the cell phone is it’s always there,” James said. “So, it’s like, if I just want a quick distraction all I got to do is pull it out of my pocket and pull up Twitter.”

Roberts says he is working to develop an app to effectively monitor how much time we spend on our phones. A statistic many college students won’t want to see.

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