Time we got smart on smart­phone us­age

Rutherglen Reformer - - News -

This week, I held a West­min­ster Hall de­bate on ad­dic­tive tech­nol­ogy.

The aim of the de­bate was to start a dis­cus­sion about the use of per­sonal tech­nol­ogy, such as smart­phones, the apps they run, the so­cial me­dia they al­low us to ac­cess, and the in­creas­ing ev­i­dence that th­ese tech­nolo­gies are de­signed to be ad­dic­tive and that over-ex­po­sure can lead to so­cial and men­tal health is­sues.

You only have to get on a bus, sit in a restau­rant, or walk down the street to see how en­grossed we have all be­come with our smart­phones.

Yes, they make day-to-day tasks eas­ier and they al­low us to con­nect with fam­ily and friends across the world, but are they in­creas­ingly stop­ping us from con­nect­ing with peo­ple right in front of us?

Over the last few years, there has been grow­ing ev­i­dence that the de­sign of smart­phones and apps are in­tended to en­cour­age con­sis­tent use.

Re­cently, for­mer app de­sign­ers have spo­ken out about the ef­fort that goes into mak­ing ev­ery screen “max­i­mally ad­dict­ing” and se­nior fig­ures in the tech in­dus­try have re­vealed that they limit screen time for their own chil­dren.

In US, stud­ies have shown that young peo­ple who spent more time on so­cial me­dia and elec­tronic de­vices such as smart­phones were more likely to re­port men­tal health is­sues than ado­les­cents who spent less time on such plat­forms.

In Scot­land, we have also seen in­creas­ing re­search that not only are our young peo­ple spend­ing more time with such de­vices, but that higher lev­els of ex­po­sure can re­sult in so­cial and health com­pli­ca­tions.

The Scot­tish Government’s SALSUS study which looks at the life­style trends of school chil­dren has shown that some of the most common weekly leisure ac­tiv­i­ties were as­so­ci­ated with us­ing tech­nol­ogy, with non-tech­nol­ogy en­abled ac­tiv­i­ties lower down the list.

Re­search by the men­tal health foun­da­tion has also shown that among young peo­ple in Scot­land, 30 per cent say so­cial me­dia is driv­ing them to feel so­cially iso­lated.

De­spite their ubiq­uity, we still know rel­a­tively lit­tle about the po­ten­tial health ef­fects of overuse of smart­phones and apps.

Amaz­ingly, the iPhone only re­cently cel­e­brated its 10th an­niver­sary, so we sim­ply haven’t been us­ing th­ese de­vices for long enough to fully un­der­stand any neg­a­tive im­pact. I think the big tech com­pa­nies owe their con­sumers a duty of care.

That’s why in my de­bate, I called on the Government to look at set­ting up a fund to col­lect con­tri­bu­tions from tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies to re­search and un­der­stand our re­la­tion­ships with their prod­ucts and to help mit­i­gate any neg­a­tive ef­fects.

That fund could be used for ev­ery­thing from smart­phone ad­dic­tion, to com­bat­ting on­line abuse and bul­ly­ing.

I am as guilty as any­one for be­ing con­stantly on my phone, and I would never ad­vo­cate giv­ing up smart­phones com­pletely.

How­ever, I think we owe it to the next gen­er­a­tion to learn more about the im­pact our de­vices are hav­ing on us and start think­ing about how we can keep view­ing them as use­ful tools in­stead of feel­ing cap­tured by them.

I think big tech com­pa­nies owe their con­sumers a duty of care

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