Cell Phone Addiction

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Last week I happened to be watching the news and they reported that a recent study discovered teenagers’ cell phones have 10 times the bacteria of a toilet seat! Think about that next time you put a cell phone to your face.

As disgusting as that is, I think we may want to consider a more disturbing fact regarding our teens’ cell phone usage: teens are cell phone addicts.

I recently began reading Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked, by Adam Alter. I just started–I haven’t even gotten to the parts about the biology of addiction, the ingredients of addiction, or the future of behavioral addiction, and I’m already concerned.

The front cover has an endorsement from Malcolm Gladwell that reads, “As if to prove his point, Adam Alter has written a truly addictive book about the rise of addiction. Irresistible is a fascinating and much needed exploration of one of the most troubling phenomena of modern times” (Alter, p. 0).

The first few pages begin to explore the topic, noting that tech leaders like Steve Jobs enforce strict technology requirements in their own homes, “following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply” (p. 2). Similarly, video game designers refuse to play the games they develop and app developers won’t use the apps they’ve designed.

The first few pages of the text make two things clear:

  1. Our society narrowly defines addiction, limiting the discussion to elicit drug use or alcoholism. Technology can be just as dangerous.
  2. The designers of technology know how susceptible we are to technology addiction, and they work hard to addict us and keep us that way.

Throughout the school year, I am going to revisit the pages of this text and provide updates as I make my way through the chapters. There is much for us to learn as parents and educators.

Before I sign off, I’d like to draw your attention to this interesting research statistic:

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Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity

So if your student comes home and tells you that I’ve been taking cell phones and cracking down lately, you know why. I’m simply protecting their working memory and ensuring they are as focused and engaged as possible. It’s just something to think about next time they go to their bedroom to do homework and take their phone with them…

Cheers!

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Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.

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