1. Are we dialing it down?
Smartphones have become the media device of choice for the vast majority of people around the world. From social media to watching video clips, internet banking to keeping up to date with news, taking selfies to playing games, our smartphones provide us with our media needs – and all in the palm of our hands.
But can you have too much of a good thing? You only have to look around to see swathes of people with their faces glued to their smartphone screen, seemingly oblivious to everything else around them.
But is that to our detriment? By being constantly engaged with our technological friend, are we missing out on other things? Could we be learning and developing other skills better rather than relying on everything at the touch of a screen? Is our intelligence and its advancement suffering?
2. WATCH: World at our fingertips
BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones takes a closer look at how integrated smartphones have become with our daily lives, and asks if we have to rely on them more than we need to.
3. How we use our smartphones
Click on the app icons in the interactive graphic to see how we use our smartphones for things like communication, watching videos and making transactions.
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4. Lazy brains
According to a study by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, smartphones are making it easier for us to avoid thinking for ourselves.
In 2015, researchers found that smartphone users who are intuitive thinkers (meaning they are more likely to rely on gut feelings and instincts when making a decision) would frequently make use of their phone’s search engine to find a solution rather than their own brainpower.
According to the study’s co-lead author Gordon Pennycook, this means people “may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it”.
Analytical thinkers, however, are more prone to second-guess themselves and analyse a problem more logically. These type of smartphone users spent less time using their devices search engine, the study found.
According to Pennycook, the research “provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence”.
He added, however, that it was an “open question” whether or not smartphones actually decreased intelligence, and further study was needed.
The study’s other co-lead author, Nathaniel Barr, pointed out that “our reliance on smartphones and other devices will likely only continue to rise”.
According to “decades of research”, Barr added, “human are eager to avoid expending effort when problem-solving and it seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind”.
5. Time for a digital detox?
Top tips for taking a break
You may not feel like a break from your smartphone, but a pause every now and then couldn't hurt. Here are some top tips to help you take a rest from your digital handheld friend.
- Turn off push notifications. We all like to be alerted to the latest news, or social media post, but we can check all that in our own time.
- Charge your phone outside your bedroom when you go to bed. This will stop you checking your smartphone before you fall asleep.
- Similarly, resist the urge to check your phone first thing in the morning. If anything was that important someone would have called.
- Delete your social media apps for a day or two. Your accounts won't be affected but it will stop you checking them every five minutes.
- If you go out, say to restaurant or drinks with friends, why not leave the smartphone at home? Enjoy real interaction without any distractions.
- Put the phone down, pick up a book. Or a newspaper, or a magazine. Read something that doesn't allow you to swipe away when you lose interest.
- Take technology breaks. Limit the amount of time you spend using your smartphone during the day by taking breaks and sticking to them.