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I have a love hate relationship with my smartphone.

On one hand I couldn’t imagine trying to run my life and business without it, it’s so much easier and faster to connect with people, to access information, to confirm appointments, even to make a phone call.

However, the downside that’s been worrying me is the amount of time we spend engaged with our smartphones to the detriment of our relationships and our ability to connect deeply with others on a social and emotional level.

It’s been reported the average American spends 7.5 hours online each day, and that Australians check/unlock their phones around 45 times a day spending around 2 hours a day on our apps. Which is why I applaud Apple’s coming IOS12, which acknowledges there is a place for a better, healthier balance between our gadgets and real life.

The irony is that Steve Jobs who brought the iPad to the world ten years ago revealed he did not allow his kids to use one.

Did he realise back then there was a potential downside?

While smartphone addiction doesn’t fall into the same category as alcohol or gambling, it is nevertheless very real.

Over 17.3 Australians own a smartphone and apparently we lose around 1370 every day! Korean researchers have discovered that being addicted to our smartphones raises levels of the neurotransmitter GABA associated with the regulation of various brain functions including anxiety, which might explain that intense concern experienced when separated from our gadgets, even temporarily.

Luckily our behavioural addiction can be successfully treated using cognitive behavioural therapies.

While observing Apple’s foray into social responsibility, (better late than never) I only hope it’s not too late.

What is Apple proposing?

They have a new Screen Time feature to detail how much time you spend on your device and individual apps. You can obtain a weekly summary of your usage; break down app usage by category and track which apps are sending you the most notifications.

In addition, you can present a time limit for each app, which is similar to what can be done on Android.


Who will benefit from this?

I see two main groups.

Firstly those who care enough to heed the inference that it’s very easy to get sucked into spending far more time on our smartphones than we would care to admit or want.

Secondly, parents who want to retain some semblance of control over their children’s usage.

Unfortunately my fear is that the vast majority will either disregard these features because they are either disinterested or think it doesn’t apply to them.

In his book Irresistible author Adam Alter shares how our boredom threshold is now so low we seek to access our technology even when riding in an elevator.


Why this is an important message other tech providers need to be making.

Some of the most compelling evidence on why we need to get smarter with our technology comes from studies suggesting that cognition and language development in small children is being delayed through parents’ use of smartphones.

While longitudinal studies are required, there is mounting evidence to suggest setting boundaries matters.

It pains me to see parents missing out on interacting with their kids in the playground or to see family groups in restaurants where all participants are glued to their smartphone or tablet and the only thing being shared is a meal.

As we continue to engage with our technological gadgets to an ever-increasing degree, the time to be asking the harder questions about the safety and efficacy of unbridled connection on our cognition and humanity is now.

Do you need to reduce your time online?

What steps have you taken to limit your own smartphone usage?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, keynote speaker and best-selling author. You can now pre-order her new book ‘The Natural Advantage’ due for publication in October 2024.

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