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Technology, The Mind

Take the smartphone addiction test! Are you hooked to your iPhone?

C3GZ by Symic, on FlickrIt’s dinner time and the log fire is burning. My wife and I sitting in a pub on a rainy day and we are eyeing the menus – the seafood looks nice. Yes, this is the stuff of an English holiday by the sea: sitting on wooden chairs near an open fire with harassed-looking bar staff in one corner and a gambling machine in the other.

A family dressed in matching waterproof coats – clearly also on their holiday – take seats next to us. That’s odd, I think, there’s none of the usual sibling squabbling between the kids. No, this family is calm and contented because two of the school age kids are on their smartphones. And so are both the parents. Meanwhile, the six year old is playing on a Gameboy.

Bad smartphone etiquette

Yes, yes, I know: there’s no point bemoaning the evils of phones too much. Living with a smartphone in your pocket is, for most of us, part of everyday life. But if you stop to think about it, it’s a very odd behaviour and reminds me of a child’s attachment to a security blanket. A while ago, a friend returned from the bathroom saying, “I don’t know what people did on the toilet before the smartphone!” I confess, I often check emails while sitting on the porcelain.

After all.. all realities are in the image. by onesecbeforethedub, on Flickr

So if you can’t go for a walk without texting someone or go to bed without checking Facebook, then you certainly aren’t the only one:

  • Most people under 55 can’t go one hour without checking their phone.
  • Over half – 54 percent – of smartphone users check their phone while lying in bed: before going to sleep, after waking up, or in the middle of the night. “Not tonight dear, I’m checking Facebook.”
  • Nearly all – 87 percent – of people would feel panicked or distressed if they didn’t know where their phone was. (Incidentally, 1 in 20 people would be relived!)

The internet is awash with these sorts of ‘smartphone addiction’ statistics: this data was taken from an interesting (if not entirely unbiased) internet survey that you can read here. But just because you do have some of these smartphone habits, does it mean you are an addict to your phone?

We tend to use the word ‘addiction’ very loosely – sometimes I will say that I am addicted to ice cream – but it’s not a ‘real’ addiction. Psychiatrists use the word ‘dependence’ when someone is hooked to a drug (like alcohol). A ‘dependency’ is a biological addiction, meaning that you feel physical withdrawals when stopping a drug habit – e.g. the shakes for heavy alcohol users.

Things that we do compulsively, which cause harm, and that we can’t stop are called behavioural addictions. You don’t get actual physical withdrawals. Sure, you may be irritable, angry, upset or even depressed, but that’s not the same. Examples of behavioural addictions include gambling, shopping, sex and food.

Now humanity is suffering smartphone addiction… apparently.

Are you a smartphone addict? Take the test…

A team of researchers from Korea have been among the first to devise a proper smartphone addiction test (there are lots of quizzes on various websites, but this is based on some science.) The researchers hope that it could be used to diagnose smartphone addiction in the future.

Why not give it a go and see how you do?

Click to take test

Take the test!

Hopefully I’ll be able to make the test into a smartphone addiction app someday.

Thanks for reading – all opinions expressed are my own. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

Kwon M, Lee JY, Won WY, Park JW, Min JA, Hahn C, Gu X, Choi JH, & Kim DJ (2013). Development and validation of a smartphone addiction scale (SAS). PloS one, 8 (2) PMID: 23468893

About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...


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