Smartphones the ‘new cigarette’
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.