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Ditch your phones if you want to win

I was interested to read that Dr Sherylle Calder, rugby union’s visual awareness coach, believes that the modern day obsession with smart phones and tablets is leading to an erosion of skill levels and a breakdown in communication (The Times, 24/01/17). I hosted a recent conference (http://www.globalblackswan.com/single-post/Musings-from-the-stage) where Dr Martin Lee has started a crusade for a no phone zone (https://nophonezone.co.uk/) (https://nophonezone.co.uk/) after seeing significant sleep deprivation in teenagers that attend his surgery due to smart phone obsession interfering with their sleep patterns.


Yes, smartphones have brought an unprecedented level of convenience to our lives. The mobile devices nestle in pockets and sit by bedside tables, allowing us to swiftly track weather forecasts, sports scores, and email messages. But they also make us accessible at any hour to communicate with colleagues, bosses, friends, and relatives. As a parent of an 8 year old I worry where it’s all going. I have not given him a smartphone yet, but I see the day coming. I do keep meeting parents and teachers who explain to me the challenge they face in getting their older children to use their smartphone wisely and appropriately.


In disadvantaged communities, children’s ability to talk, to play, and to interact is often markedly behind. When I ask if the condition is getting worse, all heads say yes - and they blame the iPhone. I am a bad example of using smartphones. I am obsessive. I was given an insight by Dr Martin Lee on role modelling phone use, yet the following day he caught me and my wife Karen engrossed with our smartphones and our 8 year old looking on. Oops. I know I must lead by example. Yes it is hard, and now after lapses I am determined to do better. Healthy smartphone habits start with parents because kids are always watching and learning from them. Parents can help teach their kids responsible smartphone use by narrating what they are doing when looking at their phone screen or by making a point of putting the phone away during conversations and dinner time.


But maybe we should also understand that it is good for us parents too. A poll, which was conducted by Brandon McDaniel of The Pennsylvania State University and Sarah Coyne of Brigham Young University in Utah, found that almost three quarters of women in committed relationships feel that smartphones are interfering with their love life and are reducing the amount of time they spend with their partner. Some research suggests, however, that smart phones are a positive influence. The fact that we are in easy, intimate touch with a partner through calling and texting makes people happier and more secure in their relationships.


Yet other research reveals a dark side to smart phones. We find that real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone constantly. Much research has been conducted and all points to the same results that excessive use of cell phone can lead to increased stress levels because of the need to stay connected 24/7. A psychological study for work-related communications shows that people tend to have difficulty in detaching from their jobs and experience more exhaustion and work-related stress. A study called ’The World Unplugged’ surveyed almost 1,000 University students in 10 different countries. The students were asked to avoid smartphones, laptops and social networking for 24 hours. A ’clear majority’ suffered significant mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation during the withdrawal period, with most students failing to go the full day without their fix.


Calder feels youngsters are losing awareness and wants to ban England players and staff from using their phone at certain times, with punishment being an immediate 10 press ups. Maybe if we all had to do 10 press ups each time we used our phone for more than 30 minutes, we would improve our mental and physical health.

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