Ein the moment of boredom – bang, we have the cell phone in our hands. The Smartphone is not only a time waster, but also has an effect negatively affects our concentration and attention.
But how exactly – and how do we find the focus again? With these questions about Smartphone is the subject of Martin Korte, Professor of Neurobiology at the TU Braunschweig.
He says: “We put the brain in a permanent state of alert by always paying attention to vibrations and signals.” Our ability to concentrate does not decrease overall, but the attention is divided.
“The brain only has limited capacities,” says psychologist Franziska Weiß, a research associate at TU Dresden. Early on in the perception process, it selects which stimuli are to be processed further. And often it is the “ping” of ours Smartphones. As a result, attention jumps – we forget how to finish a task in peace.
“When we get distracted, we usually follow WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook messages or Tiktok Videos‘ says Martin Corte. “It’s all designed so that you’re always looking for the next notification.”
The result: on average, it takes about 9.5 minutes to get back to the old task. “That means you simply lose a lot of time in order to be able to work with maximum effectiveness again,” says Korte, who has also written a book on the subject (“Fresh in your head: How to free yourself from digital sensory overload”).
Smartphone impairs working memory
If you keep checking your cell phone every now and then, you also increase the risk of mistakes or accidents. “If the smartphone is used while running or driving, this leads to a slowdown in reaction times,” says Franziska Weiß. That can be dangerous.
And Martin Korte says: “In contrast to other activities, smartphone use sucks more of our cognitive resources.” The radio in the background, telephone calls or conversations – all of this distracts us less than the smartphone.
The mobile phone does not even have to be actively used. “Research has shown that the mere presence of a smartphone in the room can have an impact on working memory,” says Franziska Weiß. Working memory – that’s what science calls what laypeople know as short-term memory.
“Apparently, some of the nerve cells are removed to prevent the impulse to turn on the cell phone,” says Martin Korte.
It’s not just about screen time
At what point does smartphone use become a serious problem? Addiction to social networks or cell phones is not a recognized mental illness. “A clear criterion has not yet been found by which we can measure excessive smartphone use,” says Franziska Weiß.
Because the negative effects do not only depend on the usage time. It also depends on what content is consumed.
“Some smartphone features have more addictive potential than others,” says Weiss. be like that social networks and computer games more critical than just reading the news.
An important sign of problematic usage behavior is the increased desire for the smartphone. “Failed attempts to reduce use and difficulties in everyday life, including use in risky situations, are problematic,” says Weiß.
Impact of cell phones on children
Screen time should therefore be limited, especially for children. “You don’t have to ban it at all, children should be able to gain experience there,” says Martin Korte.
“But it’s important that they also have time for other things.” This is also a crucial point for Franziska Weiß: “The smartphone must not replace the time spent doing sports or spending time with friends.”
In addition, spending too much time in front of the screen also affects brain development. “Significant connections between problematic use and behavioral problems have been shown,” says Franziska Weiß. These include difficulties in dealing with peers and hyperactivity.
“If children spend several hours a day in front of the screen as early as primary school, then you can see developmental delays in the language areas. This means that these children speak and understand fewer different words,” says Martin Korte.
Families should therefore introduce rituals, for example that digital media are taboo at mealtimes. Then, above all, the adults are in demand as good role models.
Limit time on smartphone
And what helps adults limit their time on their smartphones? The experts recommend a conscious approach instead of a complete renunciation. “Humans are creatures of habit and it takes time for change to occur. You have to be persistent,” says Franziska Weiß.
Martin Korte advises to differentiate more between online and offline time. “That means that you spend the time online consciously, mindfully and attentively.” You should then plan a few hours a day offline for this.
Once you are trapped in the smartphone tunnel, self-considered strategies also help. “In situations where you would like to stop but can’t, you need a ritual,” says psychologist Weiß.
That could be a walk in the fresh air or a round of sport. “All of this helps to regulate stress, which you may have tried to compensate for with smartphone use.”
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