5 Worrying ways smartphones affect our brains

You will be surprised just how smartphones profoundly affect the way we live as well as how our brains function.

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There's no denying that smartphones, or mobile phones, have gone from luxury to necessity in a span of a decade or so.

With each new model that is released to the market, smartphones have changed the way we relate with others; they have altered how we view everyday transactions. They have also influenced the way we consume both information and entertainment.

For parents, technology offers ways to manage their day and make the most out of their time. It allows them to keep in touch with old friends; it unburdens them of certain errands that can be done online. 

Smartphones have made life easier and admittedly, more fun. But, of course, as with anything, excessive use of smartphones may pose certain health risks.

Nomophobia and Phantom Vibration Syndrome

Smartphones have become like a second limb for those who always need their phone to be within arm's reach. In fact, one study shed light on a phenomenon known as Phantom Vibration syndrome, or experiencing the sensation that one's phone is ringing or vibrating when it's not. 

In a similar way, Nomophobia or no-mobile-phone-phobia is the irrational fear of being without your smartphone for a prolonged, or even a short, period of time, because of poor signal or even low battery.

This new phenomenon has also been observed in those who rely on their smartphones for simple tasks of daily living. 

Smartphones---or rather, our reliance on them---can interfere with experiences to be had when we look up from our screens.

This is especially true if you are parent; being phone distracted as a mum or dad not only hinders your child's brain development, it could also breed feelings of inadequacy and an unhealthy need for attention in kids. 

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Beyond the external effects of smartphone dependency when it comes to parenting, it can have internal harmful effects that parents are not always aware of.

Here are 5 worrying effects our smartphones can have on our brains. 

1. Nomophobia can keep you up at night

Smartphone dependency can keep you up at night, but not in the way you would expect. Long after you shut your phone off, the light emitted by your phone's screen affects your sleep cycle.

2. Nomophobia can cause anxiety

Professor and author Larry Rosen cautions that prolonged screen time opens up a constant barrage of information, which floods our brains with often unnecessary information and leaves us feeling miserable and anxious.

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3. Nomophobia can shorten attention span

It shortens attention span, too. Studies have found that the average smartphone user in their 20s or 30s is only able to concentrate for five minutes before switching to some other site or online activity. 

4. Nomophobia can make your brain "lazy"

Because of our increasing dependence on smartphones, it affects how we process information. For instance, our opinions are largely formed by the comments we read online. 

Researchers from the Pew Research Center came to this conclusion by analyzing the way neurotransmitters work in response to screen time.

Looking closely at GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels, they found a sudden spike with excessive screen time. GABA is known as the neurotransmitter that facilitates steady brain function, slowing down neurons and acting as the brain's downer chemical.  

5. Nomophobia can affect your long-term emotions

According to a study published Science Daily, those with smartphone and internet addiction are most likely at risk for "depression, anxiety, insomnia, and impulsivity."

It is ultimately up to us to control our dependence on smartphones. If you are wondering whether or not you are on the road to nomophobia, here's a quick questionnaire you can answer to get a general idea of you are in the phone dependency department. 

There is no escaping the fact that we all need smartphones, but there is an even more pressing need to police ourselves, to make sure that we remain in control of technology and not the other way around. 

sources: VeryWell.Com, NetDoctor.co.uk, Science News, Scientific American

READ: Plugged-in parenting: Being glued to your mobile phone is hurting your family, new study finds