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Australians more addicted than ever to smartphones

  • Are you a nomophobic?
  • 90% of young Australians addicted to smartphones
  • 50% of Australians check work emails on smartphones after hours
Written by Mikaella Clements
Content Writer
04/06/2013

The rise of smartphones has forced dramatic changes across much of Australian society. Most of the time, we may feel like we live faster, happier, and more connected because of them. However, two recent studies have shown that the way Australians use smartphones may be impacting negatively upon their lives.

The dark side of smartphones comes down to what studies have dubbed “nomophobia”: the fear of losing your phone, rooted in society’s subconscious if not in actual Greek.

 

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In a recent study by Cisco that surveyed 3800 young Australians (aged under thirty), 90 percent of respondents were diagnosed with “nomophobia”. Signs that a person may be suffering from nomophobia include: sleeping with your phone beside your bed or under your pillow, checking it immediately upon waking up or over breakfast, checking your phone every five or even thirty minutes, and taking your phone with you to the bathroom. Those suffering from nomophobia may even be making risky decisions, such as texting while driving.

Cisco chief of technology officer Kevin Bloch said: “It’s happening subconsciously... It just speaks to these addictive, compulsive behaviours that we’re seeing. For many under-30s, the smartphone has become an extension of themselves, from the moment they wake up until the second they fall asleep.

“This love affair with the smartphone is both enabling and crippling at the same time. They check for texts, emails, and social media at least once every ten minutes. That’s checking the phone 96 times a day, assuming eight hours’ sleep.”

For many people, a quick two minute (or less!) check of the phone may not seem to be a big deal. But when you are checking the phone that often, it becomes a problem and a negative influence on one’s life. Particularly, this negative influence becomes clear in the large amount of Australians who are now bringing work home via their smartphones.

A recent study by the University of South Australia’s centre for work and life investigated how many Australians use their mobiles for work when not actually at work. The results were conclusive: one in five Australians check their mobile phones for work emails when they’re on holiday, and almost half of Australians check them when they’re not at work

The compulsive need to stay ahead may be justified as a way to “keep up” so that working parents can return home to their children without leaving unfinished work; working on weekends may be a way to “make Monday’s easier”. However, report co-author Dr Natalie Skinner said that this is “the individual internalising responsibility for a workload that is too much for one person to manage.”

Dr Skinner believes that the easy access smartphones provide to work at home may mean that work threatens to become front and centre to everyone’s life, and that companies will quietly let it go on without interference, as it ends up being for their benefit.

The study found that email intrusion was particularly common during mornings and holidays, and that it impacted women more than men. Out of 800 respondents, one in ten said that they enjoyed being connected to work, but for 13 percent of respondents, staying connected to work emails was “expected of a manager”. The study concluded that checking work related emails after work hours reinforced expectations that employees are available all the time.

Looking at these two separate studies, it’s easy to see that the sheer addiction Australians have to their smartphones other mobile devices is leading to the amount of work they bring home. Our inability to put down our phones means that we’re sure to see every email come in from the office, and knowing that emails are there makes it harder to ignore work once you’re home without feeling guilty.

It’s a problem that doesn’t come with an easy answer. Separating ourselves from our phones is hard work and not always achievable. The only real solution is to continue to be conscious of the way we use technology: try and notice every time you use your smartphone, what you’re using it for, how often. By keeping an eye on ourselves, we can make sure that we’re controlling our smartphones, rather than our smartphones controlling us.

And it’s not all bad news. Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, the official adviser to the Queensland Government on computer safety, pointed out that children and adolescents will be continuously connected “real wired children” - and that this isn’t necessary a bad thing.

Dr Carr-Gregg said: “While the media focus has been on the downside of the technology in the form of cyber bullying, sexting, malware, and scams, there is a substantial upside. Smartphones and tablets have created unprecedented opportunities to promote positive mental health, enabling diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental illness on a scale never imagined.”

So don’t be too quick to go offline! Call Optus today to get some of the best mobile plans with phones included on 1300 359 437.

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