Smartphones destroying a generation


Al-Jazirah newspaper

NO alien from outer space can imagine the impact of mobile phones on our lives. People consider the small smartphone devices that cling to their body day and night as part of their body and take the utmost care of them as if they are their own limbs. Fingers move on these devices every moment without break. People, both adults and children, are unable of to think of a life without smartphones in their hands.

They store pictures of interesting moments of life, interesting conversations, emails, phone numbers of loved ones and other important information on these devices.

Cell phones have wide variety of uses and people get back to them hundreds of times each day. What is the reason for this continuous dependence on cell phones and what is its impact on our emotions and our ability to communicate with others?

A detailed study has been conducted by the website on mobile phone use in Western societies. A new app was developed for the purpose and was directly linked to the mobile phones. Its task was to register every touch and swipe of the device carried out by the participant, whether to unlock the screen, respond to messages, access or search through any site. For this study, recruited a demographically diverse sample of 94 Android users from its pool of 100,000 participants. Then it built a supplementary smartphone tool to track every user's interaction 24 hours for five days.

The result was astonishing. How many times we swipe our mobile phones a day? Normal users touched the cell phones with their fingers 2,617 times per day. For the heaviest of users who constituted 10 percent of the sample, the average interactions doubled to reach 5,427 times a day.

These interactions were highest when they woke up in the morning and after they returned from work.

We may be tired after a long day's work, but we will still continue to use our smart phones. The study showed that 50 percent of the participants woke up at least once or twice at night to check new messages, to know the time or to use the flashlight. What is important is that the device is kept close to us even when we go to bed.

This study was conducted on June 16, 2016, in a Western society. The results would be undoubtedly different if it was conducted in the Kingdom or any other Arab country.

Then we will find mobile phones in the hands of infants and small children. What will happen to a generation that excessively depends on mobile phones or computer screens, keeping a good distance from all outdoor activities and cutting off all contacts with the nature?

How does this excessive use of mobile phones affect our focus and ability to have a coherent and holistic understanding of the themes or the texts we read or our capacity to interact directly with those around us? Why do our children have sudden tantrums and why they cannot focus on what we say or what the teacher is trying to teach them?

"Have smartphones destroyed a generation?" is the title of a research conducted by San Diego State University Professor Jean Twenge. Published in August 2017, the research focused on the study of US population since 1925 in terms of habits and trends.

The researcher said she noticed certain phenomena since 2012, which were not visible among Americans before that year, especially among those who have born before 1995. The most notable of them were depression and suicide tendency. Such tendencies were comparatively very low in previous generations.

We think that young mobile users are in safe zones because they sit at home and will not have the risk of having bad company or road accidents, but they will not be able to make decisions in difficult situations because they do not deal with people directly as their predecessors did. They will be less happy than the generations that preceded them because they spend most of their time on the screen, which is the main reason for the decline in their people skills. It has been found that increased on-screen interactions make people less happy. Researchers have noted that teenagers who spend three hours or more on the screen are more likely to get depressed. In some extreme cases it may even lead to suicidal thoughts.

Can we allude that this misuse of mobile communication technology is the reason behind the madness of young men who kill their colleagues in schools and colleges in America? In a recent incident 17 students were killed in a Florida secondary school, which led to the launch of a "Never Again" campaign by students in the US.

Have we ever thought of our young children in government schools who do not find any school activities after 1 p.m. when they return home and surrender to computers and cell phones? Do you think the same phenomena would befall them or will we insist that our special status would protect them from this screen addiction? Let us be extra careful about our loved ones.