The Effects of Smartphones on the Brain

By: Bridget Frenkel  |  November 21, 2019

By: Bridget Frenkel, Staff Writer

Smartphones have evolved over the last 27 years to become what they are today. The amount of people who use smartphones increased from 2.5 billion in 2016 to a whopping 3.2 billion in 2019. If this number continues to increase, researchers from Northwell Health’s Neuroscience Institute in New York believe that by 2021, the amount of smartphone users will reach 4.2 billion. Over 1.8 billion people own smartphones and use their devices on a daily basis. Some studies suggest that the average person checks their screen 150 times per day! This widespread use of technology trickles down to the youngest members of our society. Data from Britain shows that almost 70% of “11- to 12-year-olds use a mobile phone and this increases close to 90% by the age of 14.”

Our phones have become an indispensable part of our lives. We use them to text, call, communicate via social media (facebook, instagram, twitter, etc), play games, and much more. But this reliance on our phones has a great impact on our brains.  

Recent research studies published in the Association for Psychological Studies found that there are detrimental effects on the brain for people who rely on their phones. Young people, with internet or smartphone addictions, exhibit imbalances in brain chemistry when compared to a control group of people who do not have an addiction to their smartphones. Dr. Jenny Radesky of the Boston Medical Center became concerned when she noticed the lack of interaction between parents and children. She observed that smartphones and handheld devices were interfering with bonding and parental attention and a lack of childhood playmates, since the phone is now acting as a replacement. 

Screen-time distracts from learning and physically exploring the world through play and interaction. It should be noted that doctors and educators are worried about how overexposure to touch-screen technology can impact developing brains. Being glued to any device for a long period of time is not scientifically ideal.

Every day, we are forced to interact with each other, in a school or work setting, on the streets, or in stores. Our phones, however, are getting in the way of that. There is no point in talking when we have our smartphones to do the talking for us. 

Furthermore, when such devices replace hands-on activities that help develop visual-motor and sensorimotor skills, it can hinder the development of young children. If a child relies on electronic devices to communicate, they risk weakening their interpersonal skills.

With new advances in technology, all a person’s information is saved automatically on a hard drive, so they don’t have to memorize passwords or lose their work. This makes us rely on the smartphone for our personal information instead of our brains. 

The iPhone in 2007 started off as something small, with its only features being phone calls and texting. Now, you no longer need to remember your passwords or any log-in information, but rather, use face or touch ID to enter your device. You want to purchase an app? The face ID will automatically scan your face and the app will be purchased. That is how advanced the smartphone has become and hopefully, with time, will develop more. 

Now that the phones are so advanced, teenagers and children are using them constantly, and it has proven to negatively impact brain development. Even though we will continue to manufacture smartphones more advanced than the ones in previous generations, it is how we choose to use them that will influence our everyday lives.

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