Smartphone and Texting Addiction: Possible Causes

Well known, is that smartphone use, specifically texting while driving and walking is dangerous to both the person and to all others either on the road or sidewalk. There is no question that smartphone use has an addictive nature and seems to be able to tap into something primal in the human spirit.

Recent news articles have come out to try to explain what is happening and why the addiction happens. Here is one on Texting and Addiction.

1. Sending a Text creates a “TR”, a novel brainwave in the prefrontal cortex on both sides of the brain, but only acting when sending a text, not receiving one, or talking on the phone.

…texting activates some kind of network composed of emotion, attention, concentration and even judgment about the text being sent, says Mayo Clinic neurologist William Tatum.

2. More than a small distraction. It seems like looking at a tiny screen and requiring the use of high thumb and finger dexterity may force the brain to concentrate more than other activities. This might cause the brain to shut down all other stimulus, leading to ignore all else.

3.Looking at our screens increases our mental workload, so the brain shuts out all other stimulus. If you look down on your screen for more than 2 seconds might allow the brain to concentrate only on the screen, to the detriment of everything else.

4. Look at your phone, a small area and your brain not only concentrates on your phone exclusively but your eyes also do not see anything else. This leads to driving blind.

5. When you receive a text and hear the “ping” sound, you get a hit of dopamine, a chemical that increases arousal and pleasure in the brain. This reinforcing behaviour further encourages you to text, to the detriment of everything else.

6. Texting vs Drunk driving: Drunk drivers know they are impaired and try to compensate. Texting drivers feel they are driving perfectly safely and may run right off the road, or not see a car, truck or train at all.

The research is very intriguing as to why texting is so addictive. Texting so enthralls the brain that the brain can no longer multitask. This full concentration on the screen is to the detriment of all outside stimulus, especially so if you are driving. How the smartphone does this is still unknown.

Addendum 2017 Nov 03 ‘We’re designing minds’: Industry insider reveals secrets of addictive app trade, LOL on Dopamine Labs!

Smartphone app writers are known to use psychology-based theory in order to make their apps more addictive. They use positive feedback at various times in order to provide users with a slight dopamine. Novelty bias, variable rewards and bottomless feeds are also used. Smartphone users of these apps are being psychologically addicted to their phones. The implications of these methods are as yet unknown, though the means of addiction are well known.

These companies have persuaded us to give over so much of our lives by exploiting a handful of human frailties. One of them is called novelty bias. It means our brains are suckers for the new. As the McGill neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains, we’re wired this way to survive. In the infancy of our species, novelty bias kept us alert to dubious red berries and the growls of sabre-toothed tigers. But now it makes us twig helplessly to Facebook notifications and the buzz of incoming e-mail. That’s why social media apps nag you to turn notifications on. They know that once the icons start flashing onto your lock screen, you won’t be able to ignore them. It’s also why Facebook switched the colour of its notifications from a mild blue to attention-grabbing red. Your smartphone📱is making you👈 stupid, antisocial 🙅 and unhealthy 😷. So why can’t you put it down❔⁉️

Persuasive Technology, by Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg

But kids may, in fact, suffer the consequences. As we learn more about the link between new media and mental illness, about the ways in which such media has been engineered to addict, parents should remind ourselves that smartphones are a consumer choice subject to parental discretion, not a harbinger of some preordained digital future. We should recognize the distinction between “convenience” and “safety.” We should no longer pretend that the smartphone is merely a tool, that what matters is how it is used – while ignoring the ways in which we are in turn programmed by the devices themselves, the ways that they use us. And we could stand to take ourselves more seriously: If we are thankful for our own unmediated childhoods, why sentence our kids to psychic lives of distraction?

Above all, however, we must no longer passively accept the logic of technological determinism – that our own parenting decisions and values must adapt to serve the economic interests of tech companies. Every technological innovation, Marshall McLuhan once observed, brings about a corresponding amputation. It is the right of every parent to decide not only when those amputations should come, but if they should come at all. Smartphones and the abdication of parental responsibility

Addendum 2017 Jan 12 The tech backlash begins. But it may be too late

And the hard truth is that you have no hope of managing your children’s relationship with technology unless you can manage your own. When Mr. Crouch asked older kids the thing they would most like to change about their relationship with their parents, here’s how they answered: “I wish my parents were not on their screens and would have paid attention to me.”

Addendum 2018 Jan 26 Why parents should lead the revolution for ethical tech

It will take a massive force to steer the media and technology industries toward models that make it easier to find a healthy balance using tech.

I nominate parents to lead on this. It is hard to find a group of people that has more motivation to push for creating technology that can be used safely, positively and – this is key – in moderation.

Parents have moral authority and pocketbook power. Mothers still drive the majority of consumer decision-making in this country. And millennial parents, the first generation who grew up with digital media, have quite the tech habits ourselves.

Shielding our children’s developing brains is, or should be, one of our top priorities. The recent open letter from shareholders to Apple calling for more research, more openness and better parental controls is a first step.

Addendum 2018 Feb 15 Tips on breaking your Smartphone Addiction

Addendum 2018 Feb 16

The study also pointed out that adult screen time also has a negative effect on children’s learning. Answering a phone call or responding to a text while caring for a child, not only teaches the child that the behaviour is acceptable, but can also trigger frustration from lack of attention leading to behavioural issues. source

2018 Aug 08 Tech companies use “persuasive design” to get us hooked. Psychologists say it’s unethical: Using psychology, behavioural scientists and mental health experts to addict adults and children to apps.

2021 Jul 24 After the pandemic, let’s deal with our phone addictions. Here are three rules to follow: We’re using mobile devices in unhealthy ways, but they’re so indispensable that we can’t just prohibit them. The real target is distraction

2021 Aug 22 Constant craving: how digital media turned us all into dopamine addicts

2017 May 07 The Phones We Love Too Much

2020 Mar 24 ,a href=”″>Not smart but clever? The return of ‘dumbphones’: Reduce your addiction and anxiety, open yourself up to the whole old world, where people talk to each other

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