The near-constant use of smartphones and computers has become very normalised in society, and while many know this is not healthy, it is hard to limit your screen time when most modern jobs require work via a PC or laptop. In reality, technology – usually a form of screen technology – makes many things a lot easier than they used to be, and this convenience adds to the difficulty in cutting down screen time.
A new study published in the science journal of addictive behaviours is proving that smartphone addiction has a very direct impact on the human brain. The study reviewed 48 people – 22 of whom have been officially diagnosed with smartphone addiction (SPA), and a control group of 26 non-addicted individuals.
The researchers made use of MRIs to take a peek into each individual’s brain matter volume (BMV). The control group had a higher volume of grey matter, which indicates less brain degradation, compared to the SPA-diagnosed group.
The study was conducted in an effort to question just how harmless smartphones are.
Are South Africans addicted to screen time?
A separate study called the Global Digital Yearbook compares and collates just how much screen time each nation across the globe averages on a daily basis. The 2019 edition found that South Africans spend an average of eight hours and 25 minutes per day on a smartphone or smart device screen, and is second only to the Philippines. Here, residents can spend an average of 10 hours per day on any given device.
This is far higher than the global average, which is six hours and 14 minutes.
South Africans also spend more time on social media than the global average, and spend at least five hours per day in front of a laptop of PC.
The study also found that South Africans have an average of eight social media accounts.
How does screen time affect developing brains?
Research suggests that one in four children and teens are addicted to their smartphones, while a number of children are exhibiting what is known as ‘problematic smartphone usage’. This means using a smart device or cellphone is a way that is consistent with behavioural addiction.
The study also suggests that there is a direct link between problematic smartphone usage or SPA and mental health issues such as poor sleep, depressive episodes, anxiety and elevated stress.