Technology has turned Australia into a zombie nation, with experts warning against deadly distractions linked to smartphone use.
According to clinical psychologist Jordan Foster, excessive smartphone use is driving Australians to be increasingly more distracted in everyday tasks.
“What is occurring on our phones is becoming more important than real life and this is leading us to act like zombies,” Ms Foster told The New Daily.
“We’re seeing people glued to their phones in supermarkets while trying to push a trolley, on their phones while driving, and more serious incidents where a mother became distracted on her phone and her pram fell on the train tracks.”
In October, new research was conducted by Monash University into driver behaviour. Cameras were installed in 379 cars in NSW and Victoria. The findings revealed that every 96 seconds a driver was distracted by something other than the road ahead.
Dr Karen Stephan, senior research fellow at Monash University’s Accident Research Centre, said studies showed the longer a driver had their eyes off the road, the more likelihood there was of an accident.
“If you glance down at your phone to do things such as texting then you could quite easily hit a child or a cyclist,” Dr Stephan told The New Daily.
Curtin University’s Professor Leon Straker, who has researched the effects of screen time, said evidence showed being distracted by smartphones posed a serious risk of injury when walking, riding or driving.
“When walking or running, watching a mobile device can increase your risk of falling and of colliding with stationary objects like trees and park benches, or moving objects like other people and cars,” Professor Straker told The New Daily.
“When riding a bike or driving a car, being distracted by looking at a mobile phone can increase your risk of a crash – which may not only damage your vehicle but could kill someone.
“Pausing whilst walking or driving to use your phone will make life safer for you and those around you.”
No phone zone
In the past five years, several cafes and restaurants across Australia have created ‘no phone zones’, and put up signs at their shopfronts with signs saying: “We have no Wi-Fi. Talk to each other”.
Amy Gatcliffe, who works at Melbourne’s Little Bean Blue cafe, said 90 per cent of customers were distracted on their phones, causing them to miss their coffee orders when called out.
“It’s frustrating because we want people to come in and have a conversation with us and it can sometimes cause congestion because it slows the whole process down,” Ms Gatcliffe told The New Daily.
In 2017, a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore launched an initiative to get diners to put their phones aside.
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The outlet set up a mobile phone locker so customers could stow away their devices during meal time.
In a survey conducted by the fast-food chain last year, 60 per cent of parents agreed the use of mobile devices during family time had reduced their interaction with their loved ones.
Fifty eight per cent of parents said they felt unhappy when another family member used a mobile device during family time.
The research also showed more than two-thirds of these parents and most children had a habit of using their smartphones during meal time.
Why we need to stop being zombies
In November, the author was on a busy peak-hour morning train that was approaching Melbourne’s Parliament station.
As she got up to wait for the doors to open, a man in front of her was glued to his phone watching a music video on YouTube.
As the train came to a halt for passengers to get off, he remained completely oblivious to his surroundings and began to walk slowly onto the platform.
He still had his head down, distracted by his phone and by this point several commuters began to quickly huddle past him.
One passenger even yelled: “Get off the phone”, while another said: “Watch where you’re going”.
Still, this wasn’t enough to faze the man, whose face was bathed in the eerie glow of his iPhone screen.
And then the inevitable happened: he walked head-on into a wall.
He was luckily unharmed and stopped for a moment to gain his balance. By this stage you might think this may have prompted him to focus on his one task – to get to where he was going.
Instead, he took out his phone while on the escalators and played another YouTube clip – this time it was Ariana Grande’s latest single Thank U, Next.