Smartphone: An Ignored Killer

Published On: November 2, 2022 07:00 AM NPT By: Dr Raju Adhikari

Dr Raju Adhikari

Dr Raju Adhikari

The author is an IT expert. @sharmatr

While physical and mental health issues, social crime, and suicide among teenagers linked with the excessive use of smartphones are already alarming, this is just the tip of the iceberg when we look into the death caused by the use of smartphones on the road.

Over 55 million people die every year. While most people die of natural causes - illnesses and old age, about five percent of the people on the planet die unnaturally. The two chief contributors to unnatural deaths are road accidents and suicide, and the increasing number of road accidents and suicide cases are now attributed to growing digitalization.

Smartphones have become indispensable in our daily lives since they came into existence two decades ago. Almost 70% of the population uses smartphones worldwide today, and almost everything available on the Internet is also readily available on smartphones. Smartphones are so integrated into our daily activities that life without them is unthinkable. Though smartphones have made it easier for us to stay connected with family and friends, they have also brought unprecedented challenges for health and social problems.

Many studies have been conducted about the health problems caused by smartphones, and it is a proven fact that excessive use of smartphones can cause anxiety, depression, and antisocial behaviors. A study by the University of Arizona showed that teens using smartphones show signs of depression. Another similar study revealed that insomnia among teenagers was linked directly to smartphone usage. Excessive use of smartphones also lowers the attention span of individuals. Research also shows that social media users are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide if they have been cyberbullied in the Internet’s virtual world. Another study found an increase in suicide attempts by 8.7%. As much as 37% of the bullied victims develop social anxiety, suffer from depression, have academic difficulties, or have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide.

Research reveals a 70% increase in depression and anxiety that correlates with social media usage in the past twenty years, the period when the use of smartphones and online activities gained popularity. The time that the netizens spend on social media, online video, and online gaming. But an increasing number of young population is also now using smartphones for mobile games, online gambling, and watching pornography. These activities can easily lead young people to criminal activities and completely ruin their lives. So, uncontrolled and unwise use of smartphones is creating serious social problems.

According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates among teens aged 15-19 rose by 47% between 2000 and 2017. It is a clear sign that after introducing smartphones and social media, the mental health of people all around the world has deteriorated significantly. Besides the physical and mental health issues, there are also increasing reports of accidental death of social media users while making a video.

While physical and mental health issues, social crime, and suicide among teenagers linked with the excessive use of smartphones are already alarming, this is just the tip of the iceberg when we look into the death caused by the use of smartphones on the road.

The indirect cause of road accidents is often not reported. When we look into the actual cause of road accidents, most of the accidents are the result of drunken driving, speeding, poor road conditions, poor weather conditions, and distracted driving. The causes of distracted driving could be many, but using phones during driving has been identified as the major distraction on the road. Reports show that smartphones cause 26% of distracted driving. If the driver checks his phone while driving, it can cause a deadly accident. Not only does this kill the person in the driver’s seat, but it also kills the people in the car and pedestrians. Despite its increasing fatality, mobile phone distraction rates are still alarmingly high worldwide and are on the rise. Statistics show that 23% of road accidents result from smartphones distracting the driver, which accounts for more than a quarter of a million deaths worldwide.

Even though smartphones are emerging as one of the major killers in our technology-dominated world, they are often ignored because they are not the direct cause of death. A life lost on the road or by suicide cannot come back, and a kid spoiled or victimized by the Internet cannot be brought back to a normal state. Digitalization has touched every aspect of our life at an alarming speed, and smartphones will be even more indispensable in the future. Despite making our life easier and keeping us well-connected and informed, the excessive and unwise use of electronic gadgets, especially a device like a smartphone, can be life-threatening to us.

In a country like Nepal, where road conditions are poor, traffic rules are loose, people are not well educated, and regulations for Internet use are not strict, the unwise use of smartphones could be not only life-threatening but also a serious social problem.

So, parents, society, and the government have to take the negative impact caused by smartphones and other digital devices seriously and take the necessary action to safeguard our mental and physical health and safety before it is too late.


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