135 students at SF State University participated in this fascinating new study. All of these students were given surveys that asked them questions about their cell phone habits and overall psychological wellbeing.
One of the most glaring findings from these surveys was that the longer a person used his/her cell phone, the higher chance s/he experienced mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Researchers believe cell phone addicts are more prone to loneliness because they don’t have as much experience reading body cues far away from the comforts of a computer screen.
These surveys also confirmed just how prevalent multitasking is on college campuses. Very few respondents said they did their homework or listened to a lecture without a screen nearby.
Erik Peper, who teaches psychology at SF State University, told reporters that smartphone addiction works in a very similar way to prescription opioids. Over time, the neural pathways in a cell phone addict’s brain become “re-wired” and form a dependency.
Peper and study co-author Dr. Richard Harvey, who teaches at SF State University’s Health and Social Sciences department, also pointed out how deleterious multitasking is for academic performance and interpersonal relations. Study authors argued that we should rename “multitasking” “semi-tasking.” Even though students feel they are accomplishing more as they multitask, the brain can’t perform optimally unless it concentrates on one task at a time.
On a positive note, Peper and Harvey believe there are simple and effective strategies students can use to combat the negative effects of cell phone addiction. The first step is to understand how tech companies manipulate our brains’ danger response to help increase their profits.
To reduce the impact of these stress responses have on our brains, researchers suggest shutting off push notifications. They also encourage students to schedule a just a few minutes every day to check social media and emails. For the rest of the day, researchers encourage students to focus on one task at a time without getting distracted by social media alerts.
It’s also crucial that students who feel they are addicted to cell phones increase quality face-to-face interactions with friends. Ideally, friends meeting in public should all turn their cell phones off for higher-quality conversations and bonding.
Peper and Harvey published this study in the latest edition of NeuroRegulation under the title, “Digital Addiction: Increased Loneliness, Anxiety, and Depression.”