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Saturday, July 24, 2021

MoodOff Day 2021: could you cope for five hours without your phone?

If you’ve ever been phubbed – that is, phone snubbed – and felt second best to a smartphone, challenge yourself and your nearest and dearest to go five hours without smartphones this Sunday, 28 February, for MoodOff Day 2021.

Now in its 10th year, MoodOff is an international not-for-profit campaign founded in Sydney by Tapas Senapati, who hopes to encourage “people-connection before technology”.

Smartphone addiction is known as ‘nomophobia’ and MoodOff organisers cite statistics that indicate two out of three people worldwide have experienced symptoms.

These include constantly checking for notifications, taking your smartphone to the bathroom, using it at the dining table or during quality time with loved ones, checking it the moment of waking and right before sleep, and feeling stressed or anxious when separated from your device.

Depending on how dependent you are on your phone, Senapati recommends you might turn it off, leave it behind at home or, if you know you’ll struggle to go cold turkey this Sunday, lock it somewhere safe.

The benefits of breaking the cycle

Apart from it being a good opportunity to give your friends and family undivided attention, research shows reducing smartphone use could improve health and wellbeing.

Smartphone addicts have lower grey matter volume – a measure of brain cells – according to a 2020 study co-authored by various European universities and research centres.

It compared a group (22) of 18- to 30-year-olds who met the criteria for smartphone addiction to a similar group (26) of people who did not.

Brain size and activity levels were examined using MRIs, and the study found the smartphone addicts had fewer brain cells in multiple areas, including one area which has been “robustly associated” to substance addictions.

Smartphone addiction has also been shown to increase the likelihood of driving distracted, posing a danger not only to the person behind the wheel, but to other members of the public.

An Australian study from 2019 found participants who reported high levels of problematic phone use were more likely to use their phone while driving.

The research showed women and users in the 18-25 age bracket showed higher levels of problematic smartphone use.

People aged 60 and over reported the lowest levels of smartphone addiction.

An alarming 61% of active Australian drivers have reported using their mobile phone while driving, despite it being illegal and dangerous.

The study also found at least a quarter of pedestrians cross the road while using their smartphone to text or browse.

Visit www.moodoffday.org to show support and learn more about the initiative.

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