Many of us probably spend far too much time fooling around with our cell phones but I previously had the sense that teenagers and college students set the curve on this. Most of the appeal of cell phones for younger people seems to be instant messaging and social media. However, I no inkling of how much time college students actually spend on their cell phones until I came across a recent article on this topic (see: College Students In Study Spend 8 to 10 Hours Daily on Cell Phone). Below is an excerpt from it:
A new study from researchers at Baylor University has found that women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones, while men students spend nearly eight hours....The study found that approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone, and some indicated they get agitated when it is not in sight....The study, based on an online survey of 164 college students, examined 24 cell phone activities and found that time spent on 11 of those activities differed significantly across the sexes. Some functions, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are associated significantly with cell phone addiction....But others that might seem to be addictive, such as Internet use and gaming, were not, according to the researchers.The students reported spending the most time texting, with an average of 94.6 minutes a day. That was followed by sending emails..., checking Facebook ..., surfing the Internet ..., and listening to music (26.9 minutes). The study also found that women spend more time on their cell phones. While that finding seems contrary to the traditional view that men are more invested in technology, “women may be more inclined to use cell phones for social reasons, such as texting or emails to build relationships and have deeper conversations,” [according to an author of the study]. Another finding is that men send about the same number of emails, but spend less time on each....Excessive use of cell phones poses a number of possible risks for students...."Cell phones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms," [said one of the authors].
I guess that a key question for all of us and stimulated by this article is whether spending X hours per day on a cell phone is useful or necessary or even harmful. If not useful, what are the alternatives? Probably some large percentage of this cell phone time, as noted in the excerpt, is based on boredom. Time on cell phones may well have a relationship to face-time with friends prior to the development of cell phones.
The risky part of prolonged cell phone usage is when people use them in job settings in which total attention is required. This is analogous to distracted driving which is illegal in many states. I posted a note about distracted diagnostics (see: Distracted Diagnostics: Is This Really a Problem?). This latter relates to telepathology or teleradiology when a pathologist/radiologist renders a diagnostic opinion via a handheld device, perhaps when called away from a dinner engagement or a movie. Cell phone distraction in hospitals is also probably more common than we would like to think about (see: Surgeons send 'tweets' from operating room)