SPD: Smartphone Dependency

By Bhupinder Singh

SPD is not a common acronym but at the rate at which we all are becoming dependent on our phones, this name should become a common acronym in future. The reason for the phenomenal growth of smartphones and making us dependent on them are its convenience, great camera features/functions, easy applications’ installations, and more importantly, it can do most of the computer functions on the go. The truth about smartphone dependency is that people are not addicted to their smartphone, they are actually addicted to the information, entertainment, and personal connections it delivers 24 x 7. The sheer exponential growth in the number of smartphones and our dependency on them has given rise to serious concerns about their deleterious effects on health.

The dependency on smartphones can be observed very easily. When someone comes to visit you in your house or in the workplace, the very first question they ask is what the password for your Wi-Fi is so that they can stay connected. The exchange of pleasantries and hospitality of the visitor takes a back seat. Another way smartphone dependence can be gauged is when we reach the flight gate at the airport. If there is plenty of time before the flight, one can see almost all the passenger’s eyes are looking on their smartphone’s screen or making a phone call. Even the boarding passes for the flights are on the phone. Once you board the flight you can see that the scenario of the passengers glued to their phones has just slightly changed. The changes are some of them are now trying to sleep or are asleep, plus some others may have taken out another device as laptop/tablet. Even the inflight entertainment is being offered by the airlines on your personal devices and TV monitor behind the seat headrest are fast disappearing.

This is the broad picture of the adults in society, who did not grow up with smartphones, as those came later. Now let us look at the picture of toddlers, kids, school/college students, who are growing up with smartphones. We can see today that even one year olds are holding smartphones in their hands. In fact, phones have become the new baby sitters. Slightly older kids demand smartphones when they are eating, getting hair combed, getting their nails clipped or just to calm down. I am not going to talk about watching their favorite shows as Peppa Pig, Ninjago, Barbie etc. It has become an essential distraction, a carrot to be dangled to the kids and a bargaining tool as well. Now if we look at the picture of students with smartphones we can see they have become so dependent on their phones that they are not willing to forego their phones even when the teachers require that phones be surrendered so that teaching can take place. The kids are deeply lost in their phones to shift their attention to the teacher. They have come to believe that if they did not respond back to text messages the friends sending they will assume that they are angry at them. There is a sort of peer pressure for responding right away. Smartphones with their social media apps as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, plus chat and shopping apps are sapping kids’ motivation to learn. The apps are designed to entice people to come to their page then to motivate them to stay longer there, making them additive in nature. The websites are also exposing the kids to adult pornographic content with hardly any oversight or policing. The famous quote by Charlton Heston about guns can be equally applied to phones today. The quote as modified is as:

I’ll give you my smartphone when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands.”

Imagine the plight of teachers, educators and professors who feel drained and at a loss to motivate youngsters. Imagine having to compete with smartphones for attention, and phones are outright winners all the time. In desperation some have decided to resign and try other options, just not to have to deal with the frustrations it brings about. In the surveys, one in five rated themselves as totally dependent on their phone; about half agreed that they are overly dependent. More females than males reported feeling safer with their phone than without it. More than half of the freshmen reported that they use their phone as a way of escaping from problems or relieving a bad mood. Students overwhelmingly disagreed that they have a hard time concentrating due to their phone use. The educators are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Teachers are feeling that smartphone culture is bringing about lack of discipline in classrooms and respect for teachers. Research by Twenge and others have found that teenagers’ media use roughly doubled between 2006 and 2016 across gender, race, and class. In competition against the smartphone, the book, the idea of reading, lost significant ground. By 2016, just 16 percent of 12th-grade students read a book or magazine daily. As recently as 1995, 41 percent did. Meanwhile, social media consumption was on the rise. By 2016, about three-quarters of teenagers reported using social media almost every day.

The educators are taking notes and stopping smartphone usage in classrooms. In 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 77 percent of U.S. schools had moved to prohibit cellphones for nonacademic purposes. In September 2018, French lawmakers outlawed cellphone use for schoolchildren under the age of 15. In China, phones were banned country-wide for schoolchildren last year. As time goes by we will be seeing more measures along those lines.

Now some research has been carried out on the long term impact of SPD, and it appears to be associated with increased anxiety. Benchmark standards for smartphone use might help prevent deleterious health effects. But building consensus and getting the consumer’s buy in will be a challenge, as people will continue to go to great lengths to connect with others. Smartphones provide a portable, instant way to stay informed, entertained, and connected. In today’s smartphone world we have become addicted to information and its continuous updates. It is time that we, like the addicts become aware of the first step in the recovery process – Addiction. That step begins with a recognition that we have a problem. Then we will have to come out with pragmatic, and workable ideas for its implementation. Otherwise, this SPD will become a monster to devour the users rendering them to become redundant, unproductive, or less productive economic assets.


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  3. Lemov, Doug. Take Away Their Cellphones. https://www.educationnext.org/take-away-their-cellphones-rewire-schools-belonging-achievement/
  4. Lamb, Anna. Do phones belong in schools? ttps://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/03/experts-see-pros-and-cons-to-allowing-cellphones-in-class/