Date
20 September 2017
Excessive use of smartphones and other electronic products leads to complications such as insomnia and finger muscle fatigue. Photo: Bloomberg
Excessive use of smartphones and other electronic products leads to complications such as insomnia and finger muscle fatigue. Photo: Bloomberg

Cell phones: Blessing or curse?

I hate cell phone addicts who hardly let go of their devices. Although I also handle work and many other tasks on my smartphone, I would not allow myself to be preoccupied with it when I am hanging out with family and friends.

Sadly, as you might have observed, cell phone addiction has become the norm.

On the MTR, commuters are looking down and staring at the tiny screen of their devices.

And “smartphone zombies”, or distracted pedestrians, are walking slowly but paying little attention to the surroundings as they are too carried away chatting on WhatsApp or even taking selfies.

In restaurants, people around the same table are not talking to one another. What is absolutely appalling are drivers handling several phones at a time.

A recent study found that the youngest users of smartphones or tablets in Hong Kong are one-year-old toddlers.

The situation is very worrying. Scientists from the University of London say that for every one hour of screen time, children lose an average of 15 minutes of sleep.

That said, using smart devices could cause harm to babies and young children as sleep is indispensable to the growth and development of their brain.

On top of the immediate dangers brought about by direct usage of these devices, parents who overuse their phones also affect their children’s behavior and lower their performance.

Jessa Reed of Temple University in the US invited 44 mothers to teach their two-year-old children some hypothetical vocabulary items. The mothers in the test group would be interrupted by an unexpected phone call for 30 seconds.

It was revealed that children from the control group were more readily able to master the new words than their peers from the test group.

The researchers concluded that quality time between mothers and children is a decisive factor contributing to the success of children’s learning.

In short, although smartphones have revolutionised our lives and offered us unprecedented convenience, it would be disastrous to future generations if we fail to exercise control over the use of the gadget.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 16

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/FC/RA

Children and adolescents lose 15 minutes of sleep for every hour of screen time, a recent study has found. Photo: Bloomberg


Clinical psychologist

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