Time to Put Away Your Phone?

People using cell phones Original Filename: people cell phones.jpg With my new picture book Put Away Your Phone! soon to be released, I’m kind of focused lately on the theme of technology in our culture. More specifically, the influences of electronic devices and the profound effects that they have on our physiology and behavior. shutterstock_230613061It fascinates me how attached people have become to their devices. The standing joke used to be that kids and teenagers were the ones that spent the majority of their time on their devices. They seemed to always be “plugged in” via phone, game controller, music player, computer or tablet. Yet, if you look around you, chances are you will see at least two or more people, of all ages, fiddling with some sort of technological device. shutterstock_41667628 This is just a fact of life in contemporary society. Most people spend a good deal of their time plugged into a device. Whether it be work or play, people currently need technology in order to function more efficiently in their everyday life. We need to read, watch, listen, communicate and interact with technology a lot of the time. Without it, we would be…just human. shutterstock_259848635Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for our technological progress. I can’t even imagine living without heat on a cold day. Not to mention, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog without it. I’m just saying… that maybe we use electronic devices too much sometimes or maybe use them when they’re not really necessary. We may even rely on them too much too-when we’re bored or tired or feeling some other human feeling that is uncomfortable. These are times we don’t need technology in our every moment of life. shutterstock_117281728So, what’s the harm in this? Well, aside from headaches, sore eyes, irritability, and frustration, excessive screen time appears to impair brain structure and function. (1)shutterstock_184296587     I’m not sure about you, but this freaks me out just a bit. How is our brain affected by technological devices? shutterstock_157691252Most of the activities that involve using our devices bring us some form of pleasure-even just a little. As humans, we process this pleasure in our brains, releasing the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is part of the reward system that creates that “wanting feeling” of whatever it is that brings us pleasure (food, warmth, devices). If this feeling is ongoing in our brain, this, in turn may provoke a pleasure seeking compulsive behavior in us. (2) These are the foundations of addiction. shutterstock_156991493This doesn’t necessarily mean that every person who frequently uses their device will get an addiction to it. It does mean, that these people are more prone to creating addictive (pleasure seeking) behavior the more that they use their device. In fact, currently, there is a name for this condition and it’s called Nomophobia. 1440732737419Nomophobia (or, no-mobile-phone-phobia): is defined as 1) the feelings of anxiety or distress that some people experience when not having their phone (“I don’t know where my phone is!), and 2) the degree to which we depend on phones to complete basic tasks and to fulfill important needs such as learning, safety and staying connected to information and to others (“I’ll just get my phone to help me”). (3) According to a recent survey that was done at The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in Connecticut, 40 percent of people with smartphones said they’d rather give up brushing their teeth for a week than go without their phone. (4) Teenager texting even when brushing teeth, cellphone addiction   Sixty-five percent, or about two in three people, sleep with or next to their smart phones. (Among college students, it’s even higher). Thirty-four percent admitted to answering their cell phone during intimacy with their partner. One in five people would rather go without shoes for a week than take a break from their phone. More than half never switch off their phone. A full 66 percent of all adults suffer from “Nomophobia.” (5)   So…even when it brings the feeling of pleasure...if you really don't need it, are YOU going to put away your phone?Children using smartphones   2015-08-06 20.09.05Tracy Bryan is a self-published author for kids aged 4-12. She writes whimsical picture books about emotions, coping skills, mental health, and mindfulness. Tracy has a series of books about addiction for children and their families that provide essential tools in educating, understanding, and preventing addiction. Also, due this spring, Tracy is releasing her debut fiction picture book called Put Away Your Phone! This quirky and important tale about modern technology stars a little girl and her dislike for grown-ups who are always on their phone. To learn more about Put Away Your Phone! or Tracy and to preview any of her books, click here.     (1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain (2) https://www.psychologistworld.com/biological/neurotransmitters/dopamine.php (3) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-study-nomophobia-mdash-fear-of-being-without-a-mobile-phone/ (4) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/nomophobia-cell-phone-addictio_n_1500670.html (5) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/smartphone-addiction