Cellphone usage is the new smoking.
Smartphone devices are a scourge. Everyone is abused regularly by having to listen to one-sided conversations in public spaces or by colleagues and friends who don’t pay attention to conversations but focus instead on their screens.
A recent British survey found that the average person looks at their mobile phone 27 times a day, and that doesn’t include the restaurant patrons, train passengers, and classroom students whose gaze never leave their screens for long periods of time.
To a millennial, 27 times daily would be categorized as “light” use which is why educators and employers are increasingly complaining about the lack of work ethic among young employees whose ears and eyes are captive to their phones, instead of to their customers or tasks.
The cellphone has encouraged a form of social autism and is a hazard in the workplace and on the road.
Governments first clamp downed on hand-held cell usage by drivers following accidents and fatalities. Now “distracted driving” legislation is in place across Canada, in 16 U.S. states and in all states for novice drivers. Text messaging by drivers is banned everywhere.
The road is not the only place where cellphones cause public mischief.
Last week, France took draconian action and announced a blanket ban on cellphones in all of its elementary and secondary schools this September due to “public health” concerns. France has banned cells from classrooms but this has not worked and now prohibition extends to breaks, lunch times and in between lessons.
“We must come up with a way of protecting pupils from loss of concentration via screens and phones. These days the children don’t play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational [and health] point of view, that’s a problem,” said France’s education minister in an interview last week.
Bans in schools are in place intermittently in Canada and the U.S., but evidence mounts that phones are used to embarrass, bully, distract from lessons, and impede concentration. Eventually, blanket bans will and should result.
Besides public spaces, the private sector is starting to target cellphones in the workplace, notably construction sites or wherever dangerous equipment is used. Cellphones have become a safety problem.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that 61 per cent of its members cite excessive personal phone usage as the biggest challenge to workplace productivity. Their survey represents more than half of all small businesses in Canada and companies stated that negative impacts also include customer service.
Tweet dreams: The average person looks at their mobile phone 27 times daily. Postmedia
Bans and restrictions are cropping up everywhere and some ban smartphones and replace them with basic handsets if instant communication is needed on the job. Increasingly, phones are frowned upon or prohibited in meetings. Some companies ask attendees to leave their phones turned off and in a basket during meetings.
On a deeper level, the cellphone and texting pandemic represents a cultural shift. Voice communications are reduced, and face-to-face relationships are less prevalent in society, families and workplaces. Social skills, essential to life, are disappearing.
There is a growing concern about youth phone addiction, notably those who began at a young age and now substitute devices for human relationships.
Over-usage is replacing manners. Ask yourself: how many times have you been conversing with someone only to have a phone call interrupt the communication, without apology?
In France, there is a movement among restaurants to ban mobile phone usage at the table.
Sounds silly, but look around any eatery or cafeteria or dinner table. Screens separate humans from one another.
First published Financial Post