2012
07.01

I saw a research study lately that really got me thinking. It made me consider how attached I am to my devices. The study was also rattling around in my brain when I saw some friends with young children recently, which impressed on me how easy it is to become mesmerized by connected products.

The study I’m referring to was commissioned by Lookout, a company that makes an app to protect smartphones. Basically, the study points out that consumers are becoming increasingly attached to their phones, which is no big surprise to anyone who’s been to a restaurant, mall, or driven a car in the past year. Everywhere you go, people are texting and talking and are generally more absorbed in their phones than in anything going on around them.

The Lookout study said 58% of smartphone owners said they don’t go an hour without checking their phone. Also, 30% check their phones during a meal, and when asked what feeling they most identified with losing their phone, 73% reported feeling “panicked” and 14% reported feeling “desperate.”

I can relate. My phone is my camera, calendar, address book, map, and my entertainment and communications device, not to mention the fact it’s pretty expensive. I’ve nearly had a panic attack when I thought my phone was in my handbag, only to not see it sticking up from its usual pocket. The relief was enormous when I found it hiding in the bottom of the bag.

But I wonder if kids today, who are growing up with smartphones and tablets, will need those glowing screens even more than I do. I’m not around small kids a lot, but recently my friend’s children came over for the afternoon. One thing that always soothed them, and the one thing they seemed to crave more than anything else, was a smartphone in their hands. My friend passed off her phone to the kids to watch a video or play a game, and they were instantly quieted. Something about the interactive nature of the device is compelling for kids. And the touchscreen is so intuitive they have no trouble using it.

I read somewhere that when confronted with a traditional picture book, many children today will poke and swipe at the page, becoming bemused when it won’t respond. I think this shows that we have a deep desire for devices to be connected. We want things to communicate with us. At the same time, I am concerned about someday having my own children who perhaps might not know what a book is. I hope they can learn to enjoy both the connected and non-connected parts of the world. For me, the takeaway is the need to put down my own phone occasionally and to remember I was able to get along before I had it.

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