Smartphones play a huge role in our daily lives, and we’ve come to rely on them for everything, from checking the weather and keeping in touch with friends, to taking photos and getting our daily steps in.
But we all know that too much time spent on our phones can have negative implications, such as interfering with our sleep and self-esteem (from constant social media use).
While those alone are good enough reasons for a digital detox, a recent study has revealed yet another. Researchers found that having your phone on your person, even when turned off, can have a negative effect on brain function.
Researchers from the University of Texas conducted trials with 800 smartphone users, to test how well they performed at a task while their phones were either present or absent.
They asked participants to sit at a computer and perform a series of tests that required their full concentration.
The tests were designed to test available cognitive capacity, which is defined as the brain's ability to hold and process data at the time.
Participants were asked to put their smartphones on silent and leave them either on the desk face down, in their pocket or bag, or in another room.
The experiment yielded some fascinating results. Those who left their phone in another room did significantly better at the task than those who left their phone on the desk.
Participants who left their phone on the desk did slightly better than those who left it in a pocket or a bag but lagged behind those who left it in another room.
Researchers say that this indicates turning your phone on silent to concentrate may not be as effective you think, and just the mere presence of your phone could be enough to impair concentration.
The researchers also decided to investigate levels of dependency on smartphones and the ability to concentrate. They asked participants to report how dependent they were on their smartphone, and instructed them to carry out the same computer test.
Before the test, participants were randomly instructed on whether to put their phones next to them on the desk, in their pocket or bag, or in another room. Some were asked to turn off their phone, also.
Researchers found that participants who had reported being the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse than the less dependent participants, but only when they kept their phones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.
They say that this indicates that even when a phone is not turned on, the brain is resisting the urge to pick it up, which interferes with concentration.
We can see how this makes sense - after all, we’ve all felt that niggling urge to check our phone when we really should be focusing on something else.
What do you think, mums? Do you find that your phone interferes with your ability to concentrate? Let us know.