Life Tech What is our love affair with smartphones doing to us?

What is our love affair with smartphones doing to us?

phone smartphone
How much do we love our smartphones? Photo: Getty
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It’s official: we love our smartphones.

According to the latest figures, most Australians own a smartphone and are likely to replace the one we have with the next big thing within three years.

We use them to connect and navigate the world, keep track of our lives, contact our friends and family, play games, find a date, take photos, listen to music, watch video and find out anything with the swipe of a finger.

But we’re only just starting to understand the impacts they’re having on our lives, our relationships and our kids.

“As researchers, we’re only now coming to this in a systematic way,” Dr Kathryn Modecki from Griffith University said.

“We’ve been measuring smartphone use. Lots of teams have been doing that. But now we’re getting a sense of the way it interacts in our relationships.

“Is it taking us away from our relationships or is it helping us be better connected? Is it helping to relieve stress or distracting us from problems?”

Help the experts catch up

Dr Modecki is part of a group of researchers who have teamed up with the ABC to ask Australians about their relationship with their smartphones for National Science Week.

phone smartphone
Our love affair with smartphones is impacting our relationships. Photo: Getty

We want to hear from as many Australians as possible, so they can better understand the impacts smartphone use is having on our lives.

“I think it’s always important to remember that the phone is not the problem. The smartphone is a tool. It’s a powerful computer,” Dr Modecki said.

Dr Modecki studies adolescent risk taking, decision making and resilience. She is particularly interested in looking at the impact of smartphones on adolescents.

“We think about adolescents and their challenge with figuring out their identify, their independence, their sensation seeking, their risk taking, tamping down with self control,” she said.

“All of that is happening and now we’ve given them a computer in their pocket [that] connects them to their friends and their larger social world, day and night.”

But the survey is not just limited to adolescents.

Can you live without your phone?

“Most adolescents will tell you — they literally cannot live without their phone. They truly seem to believe that. Many adults will say that too,” Dr Modecki said.

Anecdotally, we’re seeing a lot of issues with self-control for adults who seem to be struggling to contain the way the phone is trickling across our life, she said.

“[So] how much of this is anecdotal or fear-mongering? That’s what we’re going to find out from the survey, in an anonymous way, where people can share things that they might not share with their friends or family,” Dr Modecki said.

The researchers are also particularly interested in how smartphones are affecting our relationships, especially within families.

By sharing your experiences in our Smartphone Survey you can help researchers make recommendations around smartphone use, especially for children and teens.

“Getting Australians to share with us their own experiences is going to be incredibly valuable,” Dr Modecki said.

“Recommendations are only going to be as useful as the data that informs them. So to me this is a really exciting way to inform Australia on how we can put some healthy parameters around smartphone use.”

How much do we love phones?

It’s been 30 years since the first mobile call was made in Australia
84 per cent of Australians now own a smartphone — that’s around 16 million people.

Australians are the fourth biggest nation of smartphone users in the world and on average, every Australian smartphone owner uses their phone 30 times a day.

Don’t like your handset? Don’t worry, you’re likely to get a new one within three years, according to the Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2016

About the survey

The survey is open to anyone aged 12 and older who uses or has access to a smartphone.

You’ll be asked questions about your own smartphone use, smartphones in society and also some questions about who you are and your relationships. Your answers are anonymous.

The Smartphone Survey is the result of a collaboration between the ABC and researchers from Griffith University, Murdoch University and Western Sydney University, with support from the Inspiring Australia — Science Engagement Program within the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.