Our Opinion: Smartphones calling forth addictive behavior

Will the future bring a 12-step program of recovery for smartphone addicts?

Psychologists across the country are reporting a growing obsession among smartphone users, according to a recent Associate Press story.

The report follows our recent observation of a couple dining at a restaurant, each texting on a cell phone rather than engaging in conversation.

The observation illustrates a concern among psychologists who fear people would rather interact with their phones than with other people.

Lisa Merlo, director of psychotherapy training at the University of Florida, characterized avoidance of human interaction as “problematic.”

As with other addictions, negative consequences have been reported.

Accidents caused by texting while driving have been well-documented, but loss of sleep and financial problems also have been reported.

According to the AP story, the Pew Research Center found 35 percent of U.S. adults own a smartphone, and two-thirds of them sleep with the device at their beside.

Psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus reported patients use the phones at bedtime, then complain about an inability to “turn off my mind and fall asleep.”

Another reported problem among users is spending money for data plans they cannot afford.

The AP cites a J.D. Power and Associates’ finding that the average smartphone users spends about $107 each month for wireless access — which is more than the average household’s monthly electric bill.

Perhaps the most telling sign of smartphone use morphing into an addiction is the reaction when the device is unavailable.

Some smartphone users reported panicking when their smartphone has crashed, or been lost or stolen.

Psychologists sometimes ask addicts to contemplate not only what happens when indulge their habit, but what happens when they can’t.

Smartphones are modern marvels of convenience. When their use escalates into abuse, however, they can call up negative consequences.

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