National Edition

Gotta have: Are smartphones a need or just a want?

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16 2013 6:00 a.m. MDT

"Cell phone use reaches a tipping point when they pass from being something you like to do to something you need to do," says Roberts, who is writing a new book titled "Cellularitis: Sleeping with our cell phones." "People exhibit six symptoms that are classic addiction."

The first sign, he says, is the salience or importance the smartphones have in people's lives. Like the Jumio survey, which found that 72 percent of smartphone users are within five feet of their devices the majority of the time.

Two other signs are that the smartphone is being used for mood regulation and people start using them more and more in their lives.

People also have withdrawal symptoms if they have to stop using their smartphones.

"Kids separated from their cellphones get nervous, tense, anxious and almost have breakdowns just like alcohol, cigarettes or coffee addiction," Roberts says.

Smartphone usage also can cause conflict with others. Roberts says he has had to have students removed from class who couldn't stop using their smartphones for the period.

And people who try to stop using their smartphones often relapse back into their obsessive habits with the phones, he says.

Setting rules

Rinkus says she doesn't want her daughter to be like one of her "addicted" classmates who, when asked a question by her history teacher, answered by saying, "Let me Google it."

"That is so absurd," Rinkus says, "it makes me so crazy."

But Kuhn isn't impressed so much by the addiction claims.

"Addiction?" she says, "Well, then we need to talk about sports maybe. There are all kinds of things people can get 'addicted' to. It is not a thing that is unique to technology. … It is falsely giving up human power by giving up tech."

Kuhn says parents can set limits such as not allowing the smartphone in the kid's bedroom, limiting use to two hours a day, monitoring how it is being used.

Roberts also recommends rules such as he has used with his teenage daughters including turning off the phones at 10 p.m. and having smartphone-free times, like keeping them off during dinner. Author William Powers takes it a step further, suggesting that people take a day away from their smartphones to create more balance between people’s physical and digital lives.

Protecting the future

Rinkus says she wants her daughter, in her free moments, to not turn her head down to a smartphone, but to interact with those around her. Kuhn, however, says kids are connecting to each other, "in a far different way that we did."

But she also says the connecting does not have to be one way or the other, that it can be both.

"Technology is no harder than a lot of other things that have happened in history," Kuhn says, "but we put it on this freak-out pedestal. It sort of demeans us to say that we can be undone by a piece of electronics. No. We are much better than that."

Rinkus, however, isn't backing down and says her daughter is starting to agree with her.

"My job as a parent is to protect my children," she says. "Getting them ready for the future means I need to guide them. I'm protecting my daughter. I think she realizes that."

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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