Hooked to electronic heroin: Alarm over growing problem of smartphone addiction
7 months ago, 18 Mar 08:46
It was a chaotic scene between a toddler and her parents. The venue was a city mall. The girl, aged about three, was throwing tantrums and broke away from the mother and ran several steps ahead. She was uncontrollable as she demanded for heaven-knows-what. Shoppers watched in disbelief at the developing scene, and at the embarrassed parents who were trying to calm down the distressed toddler. Their efforts were all in vain. Until the father stepped in. He unleashed the magic wand, a smartphone and the child suddenly calmed down. “I want Temple Run..,” she demanded. Temple Run, is a highly addictive game about an explorer constantly running away from danger. From that incident, what stood out was the magical method used to calm down the girl. And therein lies the problem as it points to a growing social problem — smartphone addiction among children and adults. Smart devices which are turning a decade this year, have practically become everything to humans so much so that it is impossible to tell a teenager how the world was before their invention. Overtime, smart devices have created a universal addiction never seen before. And this is not by accident, as experts point out. “Technology companies spend a lot of time to hire scientists to study human behaviour so the entire design of a smart device is made on the Hook theory, to keep people addicted,” says Sam Gichuru, the founder of Nailab, a technology incubation centre. Over-dependence by humans on smart devices is creating an addiction which behavioural scientists now say has similar destructive capabilities like hard drugs. Facebook, the world’s most popular website has an endless feed, Twitter gives people a chance to be mini-celebrities, Tinder encourages people to continue swiping in search of a date and YouTube automatically moves to the next video. The result is a constant urge to keep checking on your smartphone. “It is actually worse than alcohol addiction,” says Gichuru who despite founding one of the biggest technology hubs in the country quit posting on Twitter to avoid being exposed to negativity. “Alcohol is something you consume once or twice a week but your phone is something that is constantly either in your pocket or hand,” he says. But since it is not toxic, technology addiction is not classified as other addictions but largely as a form of entertainment or keeping one busy. While it looks like a First World problem, indicators show that Kenya could also heading in this direction. At least 60 per cent of Kenyans own smartphones and nearly all of them find it hard to put their devices down. At the workplace, managers find it hard to get their employees to concentrate during meetings since most of them are on their phones. On dates, the smartphone has now become the unwanted third party. And at home, children are always waiting for their turn to use the devices. “Children operate through curiosity and observation. Since adults have refused to control the urge to be on their phones, the children want to know what is keeping them glued to these devices,” Professor James Mwaura who teaches psychology at the University of Nairobi says. ...
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