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The negatives of always being on your phone

The negatives of always being on your phone

3 min read
  • Phones, AI & technology

Is there a dark and sinister side effect of using phones too much? We live in an age in which technology is becoming more dominant and the impact of phones is clear to see. Next time you are using public transport, take a look around you, and it is inevitable that you will be surrounded by people glued to their phones.

Whilst the use of phones is important and can be beneficial (for example, allowing us to instantly connect with individual around the globe), we must also acknowledge the problems they bring. So why is this increase in the use of phones worrying? And how can we reduce these negative effects?

What the research says

Let’s consider the findings from two fascinating studies. The first study looked at people who were eating a meal in a restaurant. The participants were split into two groups – one group left their phone on the table with the ringer on or the phone on vibrate, whilst the other group put their phone on silent and in a container.

The results were…

  • Distraction – Those who placed their phone on the table were more distracted and less likely to engage with the other people as frequently as those who placed them in the container.
  • Enjoyment – Those who placed their phone on the table rather than in the container found the meal less enjoyable.
  • Interest – Those who had access to their phone reported a reduction in interest in face-to-face interactions.

The second piece of research conducted asked people to complete surveys looking at how much they used their phones. Surveys were completed five times a day for one week and explored individual’s feelings and their activities in the 15 minutes prior to the survey. They found that even moderate levels of phone use can have a negative effect on our ability to engage with others.

The effects of managing our mobile phones

Reducing phone use can have positive effects. These include:

  • Improvements in our interactions with others – Limited screen-time can lead to an increase in our ability to understand the non-verbal cues presented to us by others.
  • Improvements in relationships – Stronger relationships are formed through face-to-face interactions in comparison to those that occur online.
  • Improvements in health – Anxiety and feelings of loneliness can be associated with over use of phones, as can lower levels of self-esteem.
  • Improvements in sleep quality – Limited phone use leads to increases in sleep quality and duration.
Don’t let your students’ phone get in the way of their learning and well-being – help them develop key phone management skills.

Using your phone smartly

It is not the case that drastic measures need to be taken. Instead, setting up some simple ground rules could help reduce the negative effects associated with excessive phone use.

Here are some ideas…

  • Put your phone in another room during meal times
  • Have a set time each day where your phone is not easily accessible (for example, giving it to a trusted family member or friend to look after)
  • Download an app that helps limit screen time
  • Limit your notifications in your phone settings so you control what with and when your phone notifies you

For more tips on how to reduce phone use, why not check out our blogs ‘Don’t Be a Slave to Your Phone’ and ‘FOMO, Stress and Sleeplessness: Are Smartphones Bad For Students’?

Final thoughts

Whilst the benefits of phones are often recognised, there is definitely a cost to always being glued to your screen. This has been proven by research, which shows that a reduction in phone use can improve relationships, interactions with others, health and sleep quality.

With all this in mind, next time you disengage in a conversation to look at your phone, think to yourself: is this really necessary or am I just doing this out of habit?

Find all our resources and tips about managing your mobile phone better on our guide page.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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