/ Technology

Do we really spend too much time on our phones?

mobile roaming charges on holiday

New tools help you manage the time you spend swiping and scrolling – but is there really a problem? Kate Bevan finds out…

According to any number of surveys, many of us think we spend “too much time” on our phones – and you don’t have to look very far to discover studies that claim to back that up with figures.

One says we check our phones 10,000 times a year; another puts that figure at 29,000; yet another study says we’re tapping and swiping our phones 2,617 times a day… but, actually, who really knows?

Survey results vary wildly, but nonetheless, there’s a pervasive view that we’re addicted to our phones and somehow need to take back control.

There’s loads of advice on how to avoid spending “too much time” on your phone, plus endless pointers to “signs that you’re spending too much time” looking at your phone.

Digital detox

We’re exhorted to put down our phones and go on “digital detoxes” or even to think about “divorcing your phone”.

More recently, the smartphone makers have themselves got in on the action, with both Apple and Google adding tools to help you manage your screen time.

Now Facebook is joining in by adding similar time-management tools to its apps: the Facebook app itself, of course, and its Instagram app.

Announcing the move, Facebook said it has:

“…a responsibility to help people understand how much time they spend on our platforms so they can better manage their experience”.

It’s easy to be anxious about whether we use our phones “too much” when you see the headlines. However, it’s worth remembering that not all of our activity on our phones is narcissistic time-wasting.

In defence of smart phones

Our smartphones are incredibly personal devices that can do many things. If you look on your train or bus journey to work, you’ll see a lot of people using their phones.

Some will be scrolling through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Others could be catching up on their emails. Some might be watching a movie – or perhaps watching a useful webinar. Still others will be doing their finances.

Many will be reading a book. Younger passengers could be catching up on their homework. Someone else could be buying a gift. Another might be touching base with loved ones on the other side of the world.

Screen time scare

So what exactly does “too much” screen time mean? Dr Pete Etchells, Reader in psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, is an expert in this area and he told me:

“It’s very difficult to get good data on screen time. At best, studies currently ask questions that break screen time down by device type and use type, but it can still be very difficult to get that fine-grained information about context.”

He points out that any links between screen time and effects on humans “are correlational in nature. In other words, if a study shows an association between increased screen time and increasing levels of depression in teenagers, it’s not clear which causes which – or even if something else is causing both.”

In fact, despite the concerns in the media about screen time, Dr Etchells says:

“The best research evidence that we currently have suggests that some screen time per day is better than none at all, and that amount varies depending on the type of use and the time of week”.

In other words, it’s complicated. But perhaps the scare stories going around the media that we’re addicted to our phones are just a little  overblown.

So will you be using the new tools from Facebook, and also from Apple or Google, to limit your time with apps and your phone? Do you think the concerns are valid, or are you surprised at what the scientific evidence tells us?

Comments

I’m not going to worry. I remember we were told that it would damage our sight if we spent too long in front of the TV and then the same warnings about spending too long in front of computer screens. I never watch much TV but I’ve spent many hours in front of a screen since I bought a BBC micro in 1983. Much of my work involved looking at either one screen or two. At the age of 67 I can still use the computer and watch TV without wearing glasses or contact lenses.

I use my mobile mainly for making calls – and lots of them. On holiday it is used for many more purposes. If I’m just going out for a few hours I tend to leave the phone at home unless I’m expecting a call or need to ring someone. There’s an old phone in the car in case it’s needed.

If phone addiction is causing depression or other problems then action is needed, but I cannot help remembering when I was told that watching TV and sitting in front of a computer screen could harm my eyes.

Your mobile phone is more likely to do more harm to your insight than your eyesight Wavechange, the place where new ideas and innovative concepts emanate and is easily accessible by resting and clearing the mind of all thought processes for short periods of time, thus enhancing the senses to appreciate the natural beauty all around that is so often taken for granted it has become invisible to the naked eye.

Scientific studies have recently identified a dependence syndrome seen among mobile phone users, but hasten to add they are not necessarily addicted to the phone but to the availability of entertainment, information and knowledge therein.

Signs to look out for include:

70% check their phones in the morning within an hour of getting up

56% check their phones before going to bed

48% check their phones over the weekend

51% check their phones during vacations

44% reported they would feel anxious and irritable if they did not interact with their phones in a week

To read more on this topic, log onto en.m.wikipedia.org – Mobile Phone Overuse

As is synonymous with all addictive behaviour however, there is always a strong element of denial through rationalisation before the problem finally becomes existential.

DerekP says:
17 August 2018

….and, if driving through the countryside, the kids soon get over the novelty of seeing green fields, cows and sheep and then become engrossed in their phones, at least until the batteries die.

[Sent from my phone.]

“Are we nearly there yet”. A familiar cry from my 4 offsprings in days before mobile phones, but oh! what joy to leave the confines of the car and experience the wind and sun and yes even sometimes the rain on the beach, building sand castles, knocking them down or watching the tide slowly coming in, the water gradually creeping nearer until it completly envelopes all you have created, delivering an indisputable message that nothing lasts for ever and life is a mixture of both pleasure and sadness.

Mobile phones have their place in today’s society inasmuchas they keep kids safe from predators, but kids need to be made conscious and aware of all of their 5 senses to enable their minds to develop as human beings as opposed to mini robots capable only of relating to other technological gadgets with repetitive encyclopaedic answers to questionnaires set by unappealing or unimaginative institutions that prevent them from making important decisions and thinking for themselves.

The future is uncertain and but our dependency on mobile phones is now such that life would be a lot more difficult without them – it’s up to us to decide whether our reliance upon them is used for the good or to the detriment of any future society.

Scientific studies according to en.m.wikipedia.org. Were we reading from different scripts Kate?

No disrespect to any individual or research group, but it is necessary to review all the relevant published information in order to be able to understand issues, particularly complex ones such as this, where numerous factors may be relevant.

Researchers (usually groups these days) publish their results, hopefully in peer reviewed papers with sufficient details of how the work was carried out to allow others to repeat the work. The data can then be interpreted by others, who might come to different conclusions, especially when the results of newer studies become available. I suggest ignoring the views of individuals and looking at reviews, where the contribution of different research groups has been assessed to establish the best consensus currently available.

Beryl wrote: “Your mobile phone is more likely to do more harm to your insight than your eyesight Wavechange, the place where new ideas and innovative concepts emanate and is easily accessible by resting and clearing the mind of all thought processes for short periods of time, thus enhancing the senses to appreciate the natural beauty all around that is so often taken for granted it has become invisible to the naked eye.

Scientific studies have recently identified a dependence syndrome seen among mobile phone users, but hasten to add they are not necessarily addicted to the phone but to the availability of entertainment, information and knowledge therein.”

It’s not something I have studied, Beryl. If you spend far too much time doing anything your life will suffer in some way or other. In a few years we will probably have consensus on the problems associated with the use of phones, but I don’t think we are there yet. Perhaps it is worth considering the benefits of phones. Compared with when we were young, it costs little to keep in touch with family and friends. Whether people do this long-term remains to be seen, of course.

The excellent link I provided: en.m.wikipedia.org – Mobile Phone Overuse, attempted to portray an unbiased and comprehensive report on the possible repercussions of mobile phone overuse, with observations and several studies carried out by a number of dedicated professionals who devote their lives to this very subject, which included the Social, Physical Health, Psychological and Depersonalisation of the Human Species.

To be fair, I did include some of the benefits of mobile phone use in my previous comments, but the negatives appear to have taken precedence over the positives judging by the number of TDs, which again would demonstrate a somewhat biased rather than an informed opinion.

It does make for a more interesting debate if interested parties read the links provided as some of the more complex topics need a more lengthy written description or account in order to clarify a subject and to see the bigger picture.

But the wiki link figures which you pasted were from a survey run by Gazelle – a sort of ebay for mobile ‘phones, Beryl. Not really the place to find accurate and reliable statistics.

And the “observations and () studies carried out by a number of dedicated professionals who devote their lives to this very subject” included as leads James Katz, a Sociologist and Sherry Turkle, also a Sociologist. They are, Katz in particular, renowned for their work in Sociology and communication, but not Psychiatry or Psychology.

Additionally, one of the first ‘studies’ I looked up was actually an article in Perspective, a website which claims it “displays two sides of current events, historic and classic debates, employing design and psychology to make it easier to consider ideas that are different from your own.”. Now, at the risk of sounding negative, very few issues have only two sides. Most complex issues are multi-faceted and a website that considers there are only two sides to these issues cannot help but represent at best a distorted perspective and certainly is not one I would use for solid evidence.

The problem is that Psychology and Sociology, barely recognised as Sciences, even now, often fall prey to those who know a little and are bemused by the idea of seeing their words in print. We do need to exercise caution and check the credentials of those whose studies we quote.

Wiki is not a place to find evidence, unless you can check and verify the sources of that ‘evidence’. In this instance I believe this wiki article is somewhat lacking in rigour.

I have no wish to continue along those lines Ian so won’t be commenting further. At least the emphasis has been diverted away from the W/C moderators 🙂

Bookworms, film buffs, tv addicts, gamers, phone phubbing – we always find something to distract us, something that changes with technology and differs with the individual. There are more constructive pastimes than sitting on a sofa in front of a virtual world – gardening, walking, active sports, woodwork………. I’d suggest like your diet, a healthy mix and enjoy it.

That would be a ‘do as I say’ and not ‘do as I do’ then Malcolm. 🙂 🙂

I confess to having phone conversations while posting here, and not being good at multi-tasking the quality of both may suffer.

Not sure I understand that. I suggested a healthy mix which is what I try to “do”.

And so do I. 😇

The “healthy mix” I tried to convey was one of passive entertainment plus constructive and active pursuits. So spend some time on your computer, watching film, playing games and some time exercising, taking part in sport, creating things like woodwork or art. Just examples.

DerekP says:
16 August 2018

Sorry, was that title supposed to be “Do we really spend too much time on Which? Conversation” ?

Yes, I admit to that generally, but particularly lately, when it is a distraction while I have some enforced time on my hands. I just wish I felt there was not a brick wall in the way………………………..

Perhaps we can avoid possible criticism if we don’t spend time looking at Which? Convo on or phones, Malcolm. Kate has not said a word about spending time staring at a laptop screen. 😇

What next, I wonder? Is Tom and Jerry bad for us? Will TV lead inexorably to the dissolution of our society? Bring back Mary Whitehouse, I say.

DerekP says:
17 August 2018

Ian, you’re so retro 🙂

I’m almost surprised you recently purchased a PHEV instead of a pony and trap 😉

Forsooth, Sirrah; thy jests fall not on deaf ears.

I’m not sure about the emissions of these ponies.

Not wishing to spend too long on my computer I will go and do something useful. 🙂

wavechange says: Today 10:33

I’m not sure about the emissions of these ponies.

I’m just glad they can’t fly. Bad enough cleaning the car each day…

At the very least I would have expected Ian to have a state landau, or a barouche even.

Had to get rid of the barouche, John; The leagues per qedet just didn’t make it economical. And the footman’s footman was using to much boot polish.

DerekP says:
17 August 2018

Please don’t take this the wrong way folks, but I personally don’t assume Ian and his family to be in quite the same league as the Douglas-Pennants and the Assheton-Smiths.

Phwah. The nouveau riche do not concern us. As I said to the butler on the way back from inspecting the East wing “When I ask you to call the guests’ names as they enter I meant announce them.” He’s a bit of a snob, don’tja know.

DerekP says:
17 August 2018

🙂 🙂 🙂

Butt then I expect Ian’s father knew Lloyd George….

🙂

Probably a few did…

DerekP says:
17 August 2018

Back on topic, office workers can be expected to spend up to about ten hours a day on their office PC’s, so long as they take regular short breaks.

I know the problem – I had a slow PC like that where I worked once.

I’d only work once if I was expected to put up with a slow PC. 🙂

DerekP says:
17 August 2018

In olden, olden days, some of us managed to work without PC’s at all…

I recall our first electronic calculator – it did +-x÷ and =. It had neon numbers, mains supply, and we built a tubular steel trolley on castors for it. At the time it seemed the bees knees.

Mine was a Sinclair Cambridge, which I bought as a kit for £24.95 + VAT. It was assembled with the aid of a soldering iron and I built a stabilised power supply to power it because packs of 4AA alkaline cells were expensive. It did a great deal of work when I was a PhD student. I still have the calculator, which has a small but bright LED display, and power supply. It had four functions plus a constant, but no Pi key, so the instructions helpfully informed users that Pi could be calculated by dividing 35500001/11300001.

DerekP says:
19 August 2018

That’s an interest way of approximating pi, if you cannot remember 3.1415927 – and its almost as accurate as that 🙂

I’m not sure why the Sinclair Cambridge instructions did not suggest 355/113, which produces a figure of 3.1415929. That’s easier to remember and good enough for most purposes. A few years earlier I learned that Pi is 3.141592654 to 10sf, an example of he pointless things that many do when they are a student. I guess that a modern student would just look it up on their smartphone.

I suppose that a maths graduate would know that it’s pi and not Pi. 🙂

I used to know pi to 12sf. The others which, perhaps more usefully I remember – to a goodly number of significant figures – are Sqrt (2) – and Sqrt(3) /2 – allowing me to construct most things without log tables or set squares for angles of 30, 45 and 60. These days of course no such recall is necessary.

I have trouble remembering my new smart phone number. I usually look it up on one of my older dumb phones.

I expect that younger people think that log tables are the ones found at woodland picnic sites.

I remembered a few odd numbers too. I found my old log tables when moving home and found that I had drawn boxes round some of the logs that I used most frequently.

It seems absurd now that we used to use phones and calculators without memories.

As usual we are going off piste Godfrey and Siddon were the log tables I had – a few handy pages in the back showing the sine rules and formulae for integration by parts etc…

My favourite slide rule was an Aristo Trilog – had three Log-log scales!

It’s all unnecessary now that it’s easy to look up what is needed on a smartphone, assuming a signal is available. In my case it is necessary to remember to take the phone when I go out the door.

Val D says:
14 October 2018

I’ve solved that, Malcom, by keeping a piece of paper with it on in one of the card holder pockets in my mobile case.

Thanks Val – done! 🙂

Patrick Taylor says:
19 August 2018

I have always been interested in the subject matter as of course all of it has taken place in my lifetime.

As for wavechanges point regarding the ruination of eyes by book and TV/monitors there seems to be no doubt that it has become true. Singapore being the outstanding example.

Should we ration our time? I have a bias here as I think small screens amplify the stress on eyes and so for me smartphones are actually a poor choice. Humankind trading convenience and portability against uncalculated future damage.

What we do know is that blue light is bad for sleep, that people are sleeping less than optimum times, that families all having their own devices and often rooms means that the cohesiveness of families is under attack.

Overall it seems to me that smartphones like in car entertainment screens, have gone far beyond what is logical in terms of providing snesible information and departed in a lala land of hypnotic on-line brain stimulation.

The Romans to keep the masses docile provided food and circuses. We as a society now seem to be willing to pay all manner of transient “fun”. The time left for serious thinking or learning can now be avoided with your helpful device.

My point was that my eyesight has NOT been ruined by all the time I have spent in front of screens. Maybe I use a computer differently from most people. When viewing your post I enlarged your post to fill most of the screen using two fingers on the trackpad, something that I have done automatically for years. That’s much like what users of phones and tablets do, albeit by poking their fingers at the screen. I could read your post without doing this but since I sometimes use a computer for hours in a day it’s more more comfortable if I enlarge the text.

My smartphone has a small screen by modern standards. I would not want to stare at it for long. When I’m away from home for more than a day I take a laptop.

I don’t think there is any doubt that reading a lot of small text can lead to a need for glasses and here is an introduction to the problem in Singapore: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/881784.stm

From the Harvard Medical School:
Myth: Staring at a computer screen all day is bad for the eyes.
Fact: Although using a computer will not harm your eyes, staring at a computer screen all day will contribute to eyestrain or tired eyes. Adjust lighting so that it does not create a glare or harsh reflection on the screen. Also, when you’re working on a computer or doing other close work such as reading or needlepoint, it’s a good idea to rest your eyes briefly every hour or so to lessen eye fatigue. Finally, people who stare at a computer screen for long periods tend not to blink as often as usual, which can cause the eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable. Make a conscious effort to blink regularly so that the eyes stay well lubricated and do not dry out.

That’s fairly standard advice. The only time I have any problems is doing careful work with drawing software and I have plenty of breaks.

Taking a break to allow the eyes to refocus is all that’s needed.

In fact you need to do more than that in a lot of cases. Frequent short breaks during which you discipline the eyes to focus – fairly quickly – between a near point… far point… near point.. and far point again.

That’s what I achieve without trying when taking frequent breaks. Which reminds me that I have a fiddly job to do. It will be done on a large screen, which is a great help.

To some annoyances of my peers/superiors at work, I demanded a window seat for high productivity and safety. Every 15 – 20 minutes I made a point of focussing on a distant chimney then my outstretched coffee cup – and back again twice more. Before I did that I had great difficulty driving home thanks to things drifting in and out of focus. My ophthalmologist at the time, for whom I have great respect, explained the reasons (which I can go in to if folk are interested) and I can certainly attest to the dramatic improvement that technique had on my well being.

The much-better-than-usual August Which?, had an article about how to save money in the glasses shop, and included the following piece [page 39]:

“To help prevent eye strain, the College of Optometrists advises everyone to follow the 20-20-20 rule: look 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, to give your eye muscles a break and help increase the rate of blinking.”

That’s not so easy in my small home office where I have to shade the window to prevent glare, but I get up roughly two or three times an hour to get something or do something and take a look out of the windows at the same time. It does help.

As I sit at my screen, placed in front of the window (maybe not the best place but I do have curtains to shield the sun), I can relax by looking out over by lawn (now greening up) to the apple tree and garden beyond. I don’t suffer eyestrain. But I am thinking about having to cut the grass, so maybe I’ll draw the curtains.

My point exactly Malcolm, the mind also needs a break as well as the eyes. 24/7 spent problem solving would contravene most official commercial working practice regulations today.

Young brains that spend too much time staring at screens are missing out on the development of their other senses, ie: hearing, smelling, tasting touching/feeling, interaction with other humans, essential for emotional growth, creating isolation, leading to depression and other mental health problems, the pharmaceuticals being the monitory benefactors. Anyone visiting their GP today will be aware that info lodged on their computer screens is sacrosanct and takes precedence over everything else, including the human condition.

The evolutionary technological genie has now well and truly out of the bottle and the tragedy is, today’s children will grow up accepting this is as the norm.

DerekP says:
19 August 2018

If there’s hope, it lies in the proles. They’ll spend most time with their xboxes and iPads pawned in cash converters, so they’ll retain traditional pastimes such as playing with footballs / swings / dog / cat etc.

[Sent from my phone.]

I agree. We have no idea about the real stats This is all storm in a teacup stuff, IMV.

Forfive sime spelling mistakes in recent posts. I’ve dobe some on my smartphone and occasionally use incirrect letters where the one to the side of the intended has appeared. I seem to need fingers like matchsticks to be able to accomplisg accurate text. I’ll try harder with my checking.

There is plenty of stat evidence, accepting it is a different issue entirely.
Q: What is denial? A: It’s a river in Egypt.

UPDATE: Posts have been removed above. These posts pertained to moderation practices at Which? Conversation. The posts are now located in the Off-Topic Lobby.

Hi everyone, thanks for your feedback and questions about moderation on the

For other readers, and newcomers to the conversation, we have tidied up the comments to which you’re referring (above), and removed some of the comments which no longer make sense. This is solely to create a good reading experience, all members have been contacted privately to let them know they’ve broken no rules – that this was just about readability – and we updated Beryl as well.

Because your feedback has grown quite extensive here in this thread, and has moved quite far off-topic into how the Which? Conversation community is moderated, please direct any further comments into The Lobby.

Alternatively, if you like, I can copy and paste all your comments into a single post in The Lobby, and we can keep discussing there? Let me know.

Elena – If I were you I would bag this lot up, cart it into the Lobby and hide it behind the piano.

DerekP says:
21 August 2018

I agree with John.

I agree with Nick.

UPDATE: Posts have been removed above. These posts pertained to moderation practices at Which? Conversation. The posts are now located in the Off-Topic Lobby.

Thanks for your replies, Derek and John.

I have now removed the side-topic around moderation practices in Which? Conversation to the Off-Topic Lobby. There, we can continue the conversation.

Malcolm, I’ve moved your last comment there too.

Here in this discussion, the conversation about digital detoxing is hopefully a bit easier for newcomers to read and make good use of all the lovely comments.

If any concerns with this, please raise them in the Off-Topic Lobby.

Patrick Taylor says:
22 August 2018

Sort of an interesting Conversation in that it actually commences a serious type of discussion and includes quotes from an expert who also works with the Guardian. So to the Guardian I go to see what else there is there:
” First, there is no concrete evidence that supports the common view that technology use is inherently harmful.”

It is funny that when someone asks for concrete evidence I am reminded of the tobacco companies , – and then we get the catchall escape word “inherently” harmful. Guns of course are inherently not harmful. People are the problem. As always. : )

DerekP says:
22 August 2018

Patrick, I think what often happens is that complex issues get “dumbed down” for the media.

I don’t like the blanket statement that “there is no concrete evidence that supports the common view that technology use is inherently harmful”. At least as presented out of context here, I think it is misleading.

What I’m referring to are the physical injuries and disabilities that can result from excessive use of PCs at work. In such cases, poor working posture and other poor ergonomics can lead to repetitive strain injuries and other examples, such as sitting disease. Where I last worked, we had occupational health initiatives in place to prevent such ailments and remedial measures in place for those who were suffering them.

That said, you might still argue, if used safely, our technology wasn’t inherently harmful. However, if harm is only preventable by the deployment of risk control measures, then a more valid description would be “potentially harmful” not “inherently harmful”.

As an ex-target shooter and someone who still some interest in shooting and gun control, I’m fraid I also think your guns quote above may be a misquote of some of popular slogans from gun control debates.

I’d say that guns are, of course, inherently harmful. They are “firearms” i.e. “arms” or weapons (and, when sold in the USA, come with appropriate health & safety warnings). What I’ve often seen argued, is that guns are merely tools and thus cannot be either inherently good or bad. Only people can supply the latter attributes.

Back on topic, doing many things to excess can be potentially harmful, including even eating and drinking. A few years ago, certain online multiplayer games (was it “world of Which?craft”) attracted attention for their all consuming addictive nature and the resulting effects on players lives and well-beings. I believe gambling can also have similar effects. But the harm here may only result from the addictive nature of the activity and not from any direct physical stimulation of physiological effects in the players.

It seems to be part of the human condition that anything modern receives criticism, often from members of the older generation. I remember my father pronouncing that the Beatles would soon be forgotten, possibly just wishful thinking.

Perhaps we need to be more tolerant and accommodating of what others do. Judge not, that ye be not judged (maybe as an old fuddy-duddy).

Is not the question in this Conversation whether the amount of time we spend on phones harmful in the sense of disruption to other activities, family life, social engagement, and other societal behaviours, rather than whether it causes physical or mental damage.

I have always regarded the telephone as a big time waster although it is a convenient, and sometimes necessary, functional device for transacting with other people or organisations. I do not deny it has a great social value when people are a long distance from each other or cannot otherwise engage in frequent enough contact. Personally I find e-mails a much more efficient way of communicating but, of course, they are not directly and immediately interactive; they do have the advantage, however, that you can say the same thing to several different people simultaneously. From a social perspective, dialogue is much more satisfying but I sense that phone calls made while doing something else outside the home frequently seem to be fractious or argumentative.

The other uses of smart phones seem to be mainly for sending text messages [which can be useful if no immediate interaction is required], for browsing, and for using apps as functional aids or playthings. I cannot see the use of functional apps as being harmful or addictive as their use is largely limited to the task in hand. Browsing and game playing are no more addictive on a telephone than they would be on a larger device. Social media and networking are the compulsive elements but again the phone is only the access device, not the medium.

The anti-social aspect of the mobile phone is that because it is pocket-sized you can take it and use it almost everywhere whereas the limited portability of larger devices restricts their use. This leads to inappropriate or inconsiderate use of the phone and to giving it priority over other interaction. If someone starts using their phone or takes a call while I am with them I walk away – but of course they have isolated themselves in the first place by diverting to the phone.

We have had some interesting views about mobile phones but according to these figures, we seem to spend a lot of time watching TV: https://www.statista.com/statistics/269918/daily-tv-viewing-time-in-the-uk-by-age/ (You should be able to have a look at the figures before there is a demand to sign up for an account.) I presume that these figures relate to the time that the TV is switched on rather than how long it receives attention.

I wonder about the relative merits of spending time using the phone and at least having interaction with others is viewed compared with being a (usually) passive TV viewer.

Patrick Taylor says:
26 August 2018

An addition of knowledge unfavourable to the electronic media such as smartphones : )

“Multiple studies show that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in older high school and college students. In Stavanger, Norway, psychologist Anne Mangen and her colleagues studied how high school students comprehend the same material in different mediums. Mangen’s group asked subjects questions about a short story whose plot had universal student appeal (a lust-filled, love story); half of the students read Jenny, Mon Amour on a Kindle, the other half in paperback. Results indicated that students who read on print were superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers, particularly in their ability to sequence detail and reconstruct the plot in chronological order.”
theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/skim-reading-new-normal-maryanne-wolf

Yes, speed reading is great for entertainment but for proper understanding of more challenging material it helps to take your time and re-read selected text.

DerekP says:
26 August 2018

Patrick, that is interesting.

I’ve never really, really wanted to buy a Kindle so I read all my novels on paper.

For proof reading and verification, I also prefer to read paper copies of documents; perhaps that also helps comprehension.

When posting here, I like to keep posts short with plenty of paragraph breaks (much like what I’d do in PowerPoint).

Patrick Taylor says:
26 August 2018

I have always held that paper is superior as a reading medium despite having an assortment of ereaders. As a booklover I do have over 3000 published items – that figure also includes 100 plus maps.

I have a download of all of Gutenberg.org’s books as of 2014 and of the 30,00 about 3000 of these I have moved to ereader. I have also been given several thousand more.

Given that many reports etc I take from the net are .pdf or doc only then one has really to go for a reader. I have for many years championed e-ink and the A$ size ereader. Something Which? refuses to mention despite the manifest advantages to subscribers of the bigger readers.

I post below another interesting aspect for screen devotees.

Nothing beats going to a bookshelf and picking out a familiar book containing the information needed. It’s easier to highlight and annotate a printed document for revision or for use when referring to in the future. Electronic documents don’t take up space and are searchable. We have a choice and why not?

There’s something innately comfortable about browsing bookshelves, isn’t there? There’s a bookshop in New York near the Sony theatre in which you can lose yourself for a day. It’s very old fashioned, and has settees and arm chairs and. above all, it’s utterly tranquil. The noise from the city outside the windows is completely silenced.

The Liverpool Central Library is an excellent and seemingly timeless place in which you can lose yourself, with the Picton Reading Room providing a particular highlight. But my personal favourite is the Bodleian. They do seem to have almost everything you need. And the atmosphere is superb.

Patrick Taylor says:
26 August 2018

nature.com/articles/s41598-018-28254-8

I am told that this research indicates blue light from devices is damaging to eyes. I think I will browse more using my e-ink devices.

I cannot see any such claim but others may have cited the article to support their case. Daylight contains a considerable amount of blue light. Hopefully those staring at their phones turn down the brightness in darker conditions if only to prolong battery life, or leave the automatic brightness control to do this.

Patrick Taylor says:
26 August 2018

medium.com/popular-science/screens-are-killing-your-eyeballs-and-now-we-know-how-739810a82bb9

I would rather focus on articles in peer reviewed journals. This one provides no evidence of a problem: https://www.nature.com/articles/eye2015261.pdf I do not know about other studies.

I’m sure you’ll have spotted this, Kate, but New Scientist today leads with the headline “Almost everything we know about social media and health could be wrong.

“Most studies into the effects of social media use and screen time are badly flawed. This is because researchers use surveys to find out people’s technology use, but how much we think we spend glued to our devices and how much we actually use them are almost completely unrelated.

Researchers have used self-reported surveys to justify claims like increasing smartphone use is causing teenage suicide and a drop in sexual activity. But now a study from David Ellis at Lancaster University and his colleagues is casting doubt on these findings.

The team looked at 10 widely used surveys for measuring screen time use, such as the “Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale” and the “Smartphone Addiction Scale”. These surveys ask users how often they use their phones or how problematic they consider their use.

They then compared 280 people’s responses to those surveys to objective data from an app, Apple Screen Time, which measures how much people use their phones: how many minutes, how often they pick it up, and how many notifications they received. It found that the objective data and the self-reported data were only very tangentially related.

On one statistical measure of how well the self-reported data and the objective data correlated, the surveys scores ranged from weak to modest. The best test scored 0.4 and the worst scored 0.13, where 1 is complete correlation. Overall, this means that knowing how much someone thinks they use their phone tells you very little about how much they actually do.”

NS goes further:

““It’s good that someone’s checking this,” says Peter Etchells, at the University of Bath, who was not involved in the research. Self-reporting is also of limited accuracy in other areas, such as measuring diet and exercise, but people tend not be very critical of claims that smartphones are affecting metal health because they tie into our pet theories, says Etchells.

Self-reporting can be useful if you’re doing basic science, says Andrew Przybylski of Oxford, whose research often involves self-reported data. But “if you’re out there saying stuff like ‘don’t give teens mobile phones until they’re 15’, or if you’re the health secretary wanting to use age verification software to limit kids’ social media time on the basis of these dodgy estimates, that would be bad.””

So, as always, wild claims are often later disproved by careful, systematic research. Only by then it’s often too late.