Compulsive Smartphone Use Still Allowed – But Not If You’re Driving:

Are you “nomophobic”? If you’re not sure what that is, it’s a condition from which Harry Wallop, a Daily Telegraph journalist, suffers. He has a fear of having no mobile phone. He admits that the very first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning, while still in bed, is to pick up his phone and press the Twitter app to see what’s going on in the world. It’s also the last thing he does at night before turning off the light.

According to Daily Mail columnist, Victoria Woollaston – based on combined research conducted by Nottingham Trent, Lancaster, Lincoln and the West of England Universities – the average smartphone user checks their device more than 85 times a day and 1,500 times a week “without realising they are doing so” and four out of ten admits they would feel completely lost without it.

The number of smartphone users in the UK, as estimated by Statistica.com, has now reached 44.9 million. Globally, say the digital analysts GSMA Intelligence, there are now more mobile devices (7.22 billion) than the 7.19 billion humans that the US Census Bureau calculates live on the planet.

The most recent survey of mobile phone users has been carried out by Deloitte, the financial & tax advisory company. As BBC News has observed, Deloitte’s report indicates that many people in the UK “are in the grip of an addiction to their devices” and so suffer not just from “nomophobia” but also “Fomo” – the fear of missing out”.

Deloitte’s figures reveal that 81% of smartphone owners use them while watching TV, 68% while having dinner with the family, 80% while talking to friends, 78% when they are on public transport and 89% while they are at work. Harry Wallop is not the only person who checks his smartphone within 5 minutes of waking up: 32% do likewise and 29% check their text messages first.

Deloitte expressed particular concern about the effect that the “nocturnal usage of smartphones” is having on owners’ sleep quality: 34% of all users and 50% of 18-24 year-olds check for social media updates or personal e-mail in the middle of the night. The survey recommended that the device should simply be placed out of reach before going to bed – or, if that’s not acceptable, for it to be put into “night-time mode” so the screen shows “warmer, yellower hues instead of blue tones|. This, they advise, “can help prepare the body for sleep”.

The company also points out that, although smartphones are personal, “their usage impacts on those around them” and emphasize that owners should try to avoid a scenario whereby “their lives are run by their devices”. Apparently, one in three UK adults has argued with their partner about using their mobile phone too much- especially those in the 25-34 age group (38%). This occurs less frequently among those aged 35-44 (33%), 45-54 (21%), 55-64 (18%) and 65 plus (11%).

There’s now another major issue associated with smartphones: The increasing number of users being injured when walking into lampposts, fountains or even onto railway tracks. The Australian physiotherapist, Dr Siobhan Schabrun, who co-authored a University of Queensland investigation into this phenomenon, told the Guardian that “When people walk and use their phone – especially when reading or typing a text – they slow down and swerve, even if they think they are walking in a straight line. Furthermore, that “they hold their body posture really rigid, their arms, trunk and head are all fixed together and they walk a little bit more like a robot”. This then “upsets a person’s balance, making them more susceptible to tripping and reduces their ability to react to stumbling”.

An article in the Sunday Times in 2016 compiled by three of its reporters revealed that they had seen “13 out of 100 people in Borough High Street, London, staring at their phones while walking on the packed pavements and many crossing a nearby road while distracted by their phone”. The article highlighted fears that “text walking” by “slow-moving smombies” (smartphone zombies) oblivious to the world around them is infuriating fellow pedestrians and provoking angry confrontations with motorists and cyclists. The solution to this in Antwerp, Belgium and in Chonqing, China has been to paint white lines “to create ‘smombie lanes” where pedestrians can walk while texting without irritating others”.

From now on, however, mobile phone addicts will have to restrain themselves when getting into a car. Since 1st March, if they are caught using their phone while driving, they will get six penalty points on their licence instead of the previous three and the fine doubled to £200. A 19-year old student caught using his mobile in his car lost his licence on the first day of the new regulations because “newly-qualified drivers have a ceiling of six points for their first two years on the road” (The Guardian).

Other first day offenders were “a woman texting about her puppy, a lorry driver at a roundabout” (The Times) and a man in a white van stopped by the police near Greenwich University who was given “a bigger fine and six penalty points because he argued he didn’t own a phone despite being seen using the device”.(The Evening Standard).

As the Guardian columnist, Pamela Duncan, commented on 4th March: One in five motorists in the UK say they have used a handheld phone while driving over the past twelve months.” The new legislation is designed to put an end to all of that.

Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on March 7th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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