EDITORIAL: Smartphone addiction can be costly

We need to ensure we're controlling our devices, not the other way around

They’re called smartphones, but the way some people use them is anything but smart – giving us all legitimate cause for concern about public safety.

A new poll that shows that 64 per cent of adults in B.C. own a smartphone also reveals, more disturbingly, that about 18 per cent of those who do consider themselves “strongly addicted to the device.”

Predictably, the majority who placed themselves in that particular category describe their addiction as “manageable.” It’s a rare addict, after all, who acknowledges his or her addiction – whatever it is – is galloping out of control.

That all changes, of course, when the addict is faced with incontrovertible evidence – usually some severe crisis or tragedy – that calls for an immediate change in behaviour.

The question is, should we, as a society, be expected to pay the price of such a crisis or tragedy? Particularly when it’s something like an accident caused by driving without due care and attention?

Smartphones offer entertainment and information through a multitude of apps, and they have very practical uses in terms of communication, particularly in emergencies, that have, so far, merely scratched the surface of their potential.

But it’s no news they also function as a distraction.

According to the recent poll, those who describe themselves as addicted estimate they spend an average of 2.5 of their waking hours staring at their diminutive keypads and screens. If that 2.5 hours were spent in one block of time, it might be a different matter – but it’s spread throughout the day, usually while the users are multi-tasking in some way.

We should all be more aware of the imminent dangers such devices present – and to make sure that we are actually controlling them – and not the other way around.

The human animal is, inevitably, flawed – and there is always the temptation to make just one short call, check that one detail, complete that half-finished text or glance at that incoming message. A quick look, a few more words, just this once – who could it hurt?

The answer is not only ourselves, but many others as well.

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