Smart­phones the ‘new cig­a­rette’

Lesotho Times - - Health -

PRE­TO­RIA — THERE is a new wave of ad­dic­tion — in the form of a fail­ure to be sep­a­rated from a smart­phone.

There’s even a word for it: nomo­pho­bia, coined from a term, no-mo­bile-phone-phobia. It is a psy­cho­log­i­cal syn­drome in which a per­son is afraid of be­ing out of cell­phone con­tact.

And, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, cell­phone ad­dic­tion mer­ited in­clu­sion in sub­stance and be­havioural ad­dic­tion, like gam­bling dis­or­der.

Cell­phone ad­dic­tion has been la­belled an ob­ses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der by ex­perts across the world, hit­ting largely young smart­phone users who de­pend on the gad­get to fit in, re­main so­cially ac­tive and to stave off lone­li­ness.

Ex­perts have de­clared it as po­ten­tially one of the big­gest non-drug ad­dic­tions in the 21st cen­tury.

Sim­i­lar prob­lems have caught South Africa in the be­havioural cell­phone habit grip, as has been found in a study by Unisa.

It found that about six in ev­ery 10 pupils were heav­ily reliant on their cell­phones.

The pupils re­garded their mo­bile de­vices as a com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor for in­clu­siv­ity and to be­ing part of a dig­i­tal cell­phone com­mu­nity of friends. The study, con­ducted by the Bureau of Mar­ket Research Col­lege of Eco­nomic and Man­age­ment Sciences, was the first of its kind in the coun­try.

It was done to de­ter­mine prob­lem­atic cell­phone habits among high school pupils.

Al­most 50 per­cent of sur­veyed pupils from 11 pri­vate schools and a sim­i­lar num­ber from public schools dis­played ad­dic­tion be­hav­iours. The study also found higher preva­lence rates of cell­phone ad­dic­tion among fe­male, higher school grades and older pupils.

Their be­hav­iour fell in line with other stud­ies on cell­phone be­hav­iour con­ducted around the world, with psy­chol­o­gists de­scrib­ing sev­eral symp­toms of the typ­i­cal newly-emerged men­tal dis­or­der known as smart­phone ad­dic­tion or smart­phone de­pen­dence.

Typ­i­cal symp­toms in­cluded users ad­mit­ting to get­ting di­verted and be­com­ing un­able to fo­cus on al­most any­thing if they did not have their cell­phones in hand.

“Even if they put their smar­phone in vi­bra­tion mode, they con­tin­u­ously keep watch­ing whether there is any missed call or mes­sages re­ceived,” a mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­pert re­port said.

Mo­bile users ad­mit­ted to their re­luc­tance to putting their phones on a charger, pre­fer­ring to use al­ter­na­tive bat­tery-charg­ing op­tions such as power banks.

Teenagers and adults alike were in the grip of nomo­pho­bia, ac­cord­ing to stud­ies.

Nomo­pho­bia also de­scribes the fear gen­er­ated when a user is un­able to com­mu­ni­cate via cell­phone.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­perts said it was char­ac­terised by a fear peo­ple faced when they could not get a sig­nal from a mo­bile tower, run out of bat­tery, for­get to take the phone with them or sim­ply do not re­ceive calls, texts or e-mail no­ti­fi­ca­tions for a cer­tain pe­riod of time.

Young smart­phone users in the coun­try said they used their phones to lis­ten to mu­sic, take pic­tures, for the in­ter­net, to send and re­ceive text mes­sages and so­cial net­work­ing.

Adults, on the other hand, said they used their cell­phones for so­cial me­dia, tex­ting and chat­ting, on­line shop­ping and play­ing games.

Both groups ad­mit­ted to hours spent on their cell­phone and show­ing be­havioural cell­phone prob­lems, the study said.

Iden­ti­fied by psy­chol­o­gists as be­ing chief among symp­toms of ad­dic­tion have been ex­ces­sive use and the loss of sense of time or a ne­glect of ba­sic drives, with­drawal, in­clud­ing feel­ings of anger, ten­sion and depression when the phone or net­work was in­ac­ces­si­ble, and symp­toms of nomo­pho­bia or ringx­i­ety.

“Al­though it has not been of­fi­cially de­scribed an ad­dic­tion, cell­phone ad­dic­tion has been dubbed the new cig­a­rette,” Unisa’s Pro­fes­sor Deon Tustin said. Overuse of smart­phones could af­fect users so­cially, phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally, he said.

Be­havioural pat­terns were the tip­ping point, and could throw the coun­try into a sit­u­a­tion of a mis­un­der­stood ad­dic­tion if the sit­u­a­tion was not given ur­gent at­ten­tion. — IOL

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, cell­phone ad­dic­tion mer­ited in­clu­sion in sub­stance and be­havioural ad­dic­tion, like gam­bling dis­or­der.

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