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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
EditorialsUpFront 09/18

UpFront 09/18

Reading Ofcom’s recent, UK Communications Market Report 2018,  isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. However, it offers some fascinating information. It is now over 20 years since the iPhone was launched by Apple’s Steve Jobs. At the time it was lauded as a ‘game changer’ for the communications industry and since competitors launched and marketed viable alternatives, the use of these little ‘communication devices’ has become ubiquitous. According to the Ofcom report, 78% of UK adults now use a smartphone to connect to the internet and people polled in the research claimed to spend 24 hours a week online—which was more than twice as much as in 2011. Twenty-four hours a week works out at 1,248 hours a year. With an average lifetime now estimated to be around 80 years and deducting, say, the first fourteen years of one’s life for less digitally enhanced growth activity, that adds up to over 82,000 hours staring at a mobile phone screen—over 9 years of one’s life. That may seem like a lot, but anyone studying heavy users’ interaction with their phones might claim the figures should be higher. They might point out that many people, alerted by notifications from their favourite online activity, be it social media or gaming, spend more time interacting with their phones than not. The ‘always connected’ world that people live in now means it’s more likely that heavy users are online for even longer than the Ofcom report suggests. Something that concerns Jenny Radesky, M.D., an assistant professor of developmental behavioural paediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. In an article published earlier this year she pointed out that ‘habit-forming design approaches’ used by app, game and social media designers are potentially dangerous to children’s developing brains because they are more susceptible to persuasive design elements such as visual and sound effects, virtual rewards and the gratification of ‘likes’ from peers. One of the greatest worries is users losing the ability to focus. In September, France’s ban on the use of mobile phones in school grounds comes into force. It is part of their ‘detox’ programme for those young people that lawmakers believed were becoming increasingly addicted to their phones. It will be interesting to see if it helps a generation of French people to become more focused than the same generation of British. Perhaps it might result in focus competitions, maybe even a new Olympic sport. Then someone might develop an app so they could play focus games on their phones. Oh dear…

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