Tech addiction

Tech addiction

Listen to the radio programme about tech addiction to practise and improve your listening skills.

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Presenter: The sound of kids hanging out together. Or, at least, how it sounded a few years ago. Nowadays a group of, well, just about anyone – kids, teens, tweens, their parents – might sound a lot more like this …

Most of us spend hours a day with our heads bent over our smartphones. Research suggests teenagers spend as many as nine hours a day, while pre-teens spend up to six.

Teen voice: I don't know, it's, like, the first thing I do in the morning, check in and see who's posted anything overnight. It's my alarm clock so I kind of have to look at it and then, you know, it's pretty hard not to scroll through.

Presenter: And it's not just teenagers and millennials, Generation X and even the Baby Boomers are almost as bad.

Adult voice: I'm online most of the day for work and you'd think I'd be sick of screens by the time I get home, but most of my news comes through Facebook and I'm really into food so I'll hold my hands up to being one of those people who posts photos of their meals.

Presenter: But are we addicted to our phones and apps? And does it matter? Former Google and Facebook employees certainly think so. So they've set up a non-profit organisation, the Center for Humane Technology, to reverse the digital attention crisis and promote safe technology for children.

Expert: Anyone who's seen queues round the block for the latest iPhone has to wonder what these people are thinking. You've literally got people sleeping in the street to get the newest device, probably not even talking to anyone else in the queue because they're on social media, taking selfies in the queue to post to Instagram. If that's not addiction, it's certainly obsession.

Presenter: A more formal definition of addiction describes it as a repeated involvement with an activity, despite the harm it causes. Someone with an addiction has cravings – that feeling that you haven't checked your phone for two minutes and can't relax until you get your hands on it again. They may have a lack of self-control and not realise their behaviour is causing problems – like texting while cycling or falling off a cliff taking a selfie. And, in case you're wondering, I read about both of those via the news app on my phone, which updates every couple of minutes with the latest stories … definitely addicted. So the 'Truth about Tech' campaign by Common Sense Media and the Center for Humane Technology couldn't come fast enough for most of us. But it's children who are probably most at risk because of the effect tech addiction might be having on their brain development. Professor Mary Michaels of the Atlanta Future Tech Institute has been working with very young children. Mary, thanks for dropping by. What is your research telling us?

Mary: Well, we know that screen time is affecting key aspects of healthy child development, like sleep, healthy eating and what psychologists call 'serve and return' moments, which are when parents respond to babies seeking assurance and connection by making eye contact, smiling or talking. All perfectly normal things we do and which help lay the foundations of babies' brains. It's much harder to engage with a baby normally if you're looking at your phone. Or, even worse, if parents give a crying child a phone to distract them instead of talking to them or hugging them, and that might lead to them failing to develop their ability to regulate their own emotions.

Presenter: And what about older children?

Mary: Again, we know that teenagers who spend a lot of time on social media are 56 per cent more likely to report being unhappy and 27 per cent more likely to suffer depression. Teenagers are especially vulnerable because they're more sensitive to highs and lows anyway, so we're looking at, potentially, higher instances of suicide, schizophrenia, anxiety and addiction in teens which is exacerbated by dependence on technology.

Presenter: It sounds like a vicious circle. They're more likely to get addicted to smartphones and social media and that addiction itself makes them candidates for other addictions.

Mary: Yes, that's right.  

Presenter: Time to stage an intervention! Is there anything we can do to make tech less addictive?

Mary: Setting devices to greyscale, which is basically black and white, might make them less appealing. Scrolling through a newsfeed of boring, washed-out photos just doesn't create the same rush as bright colours perhaps. And you can turn off the notifications that are constantly pulling you back in to check your phone.

Presenter: So is it ...


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Profile picture for user Jamil Harumi

Submitted by Jamil Harumi on Mon, 21/06/2021 - 18:57

Nowadays, our smartphone has become a vital part of our lives because there are many things to do with our phones, not only making phone calls but also in our lives. This is why we rely more on them.
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Submitted by Hennadii on Mon, 24/05/2021 - 18:31

Honestly, I spend lots of time with my smartphone. Firstly, because of my job. Almost all communication with my colleagues now via Telegram so I use that app a lot. Another point of my (I don't want to use this word - "addiction" - but well, let's go with that) addiction is my apartness: I spent almost four years on maternity leave so I felt a lack of communication with others. That's why I used to spend so much time on social media. Now I began to work by due to covid I have to work from home and again the only persons I talk to are my kids. I love them best of all by they are too small to be the right talkers. Of course, I don't spend hours on my phone because of the slack in time for all my tasks at home but I screen my phone quite often. Happily, my addiction spreads only on Facebook (I don't post my food on Instagram and don't use other social media).

Submitted by Egarcia on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 14:13

I do not feel that I have an addiction to social media. But I might be on the way to it. My alarm is set on my phone so I quick check for any urgent messages too. Getting ready for work I do not check my social media. At my work place we are not allowed the use of phones, so I don't use my phone until 8:30pm when I arrive to my place. I usually eat answering my e-mails. I can watch a movie or a serie and at the same time answering whatssapp and calls. Check my Pinterist. Only 2-3 hours a day I don't think can be call an addiction. But with the lockdown now I spend almost all day Saturday between my phone and my laptop. So this is another different case!
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Submitted by El Cuy Mágico on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 20:31

I don’t know, Actually I can’t describe myself as an addict, but I have noticed that since the pandemic started the time I spend using my phone has increased. I should likely use this time doing other activities I like such us reading, playing guitar or learning a language.

Submitted by Maychin on Sun, 25/10/2020 - 10:18

I am not addicted to social media or smartphone.I have the reasons for this because I have spent about two or three hours a day on my smartphone.Nowadays most of the people are online for their business or for their studies.As I said earlier I am online for two or three hours.When I am online I get into this bbc learning website and do some exercises in listening or reading.I really enjoy doing all exercises on this website.I am greatful to all team members in this group of people.Although I have no chance to say thank you in person I get it because of my phone and internet access.I made up my mind to get to advance level in english during pandemic period.Have a nice day everyone!

Submitted by flavie.A on Fri, 09/10/2020 - 00:44

Just like many people today, I also have a smartphone. I'm not very good at technology and it's tools and this seems much like an advantage for me. I use my smartphone to interact with family and friends as well as most services available on the latest. But I spend most of my time listening to music and contemplating nature when ever the opportunity is given, or better still, I go shopping. I'm therefore veery far from being addicted to social media and smartphone.

Submitted by Cami on Sat, 03/10/2020 - 11:53

I think that I am not so addicted to social media, unless I am a bit addicted to smartphone, but exspecially because through it I communicate with people. Without it, it would be very difficult staying in touch with it. However, i try not to use my smartphone too much, knowing that the less I use it the better it is for my health.

Submitted by Jeanxu on Sat, 26/09/2020 - 18:34

I am definitely addict to my smart phone,I always want to have a check what the world or other people are going on, I want to change this habbit, so that I can give myself more time studying and accompanying my children.
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Mon, 21/09/2020 - 12:11

I don't think I'm addicted to social media or smartphone, but nowadays I just use it from necessity... ;)

Submitted by Armandito on Sun, 20/09/2020 - 00:40

unfortunately, this tendency has been exacerbated even more because of the virus pandemic we are going through. I don´t wish to be a negative person but I am 100 % sure that the worse is yet to come. We will see a dramatic increase in the rate of people suffering from mental health issues, especially in kids.