Are sat-navs making us stupid?

Modern technology has a real knack for making our lives easier. Whether we want to order some groceries, find out the weather forecast or even chat to a friend across the world, we can do it all with a click of a button.

Whilst we’re certainly reaping the benefits modern technology has brought, is it having a detrimental effect?

Memory:

Prior to ‘smart devices’, we relied heavily on our memories to navigate through life. As we now have access to a vast amount of information at our fingertips, there is much less importance placed on our memory, as our handy devices will help us whenever we need.

Sat-navs are a handy device to help us get from A to B, however research has shown that when using a GPS device, drivers are less likely to remember what they see along the way and often struggle to find the destination again without assistance. Not only that, but there have also been plenty of hints that sat-navs can cause temporary lapses in common sense. You regularly see disaster sat-nav stories in the media – including the lorry driver who was bound for the Mediterranean, yet found himself at Gibraltar Point in Skegness.

Our ancestors relied on a natural ability to familiarise themselves with new places in order to survive, and some researchers are concerned that modern technology could lead to us losing this skill completely. So, if you’re looking to challenge your navigation skills and improve your memory, try going back to a time when sat-navs were a figment of our imagination and plan a route without the help of GPS. Your sense of direction will kick in (and if it doesn’t – your sat-nav will help save the day!).

Addiction:

A serious issue we are now seeing with our handheld devices is addiction. Many are losing track of time and interest in the real world. This is eroding at social and family bonds as well as effecting the health of the individual.

An Ofcom report found people are now spending on average 24 hours a week online, with one in five adults spending as much as 40 hours a week on the web. This rise has brought something called ‘the chronic smartphone stress’, which is caused by anticipation of (or the absence of) notifications.

Technology and its built-in gratification is very much like chemical dependence. And with the constant flow of notifications and information it can be hard to resist. Our brains release the neurotransmitter dopamine when the experience is hitting the right buttons, this makes us feel wonderful in the short term, but also makes us want more and more over time.

If your phone doesn’t already have information on how long you spend on your apps, apps like QualityTime are great for monitoring your usage. It gives detailed analysis of usage, screen unlocks and much more. You can create a device usage alert to remind you when you are spending too much time on your phone. You can also take advantage of the ‘break’ feature, which allows you to block notifications and reject incoming calls for a selected time-period. The missed alerts can then be accessed after your break. Who knows, you may find yourself enjoying the peace.

Distraction:

Some people are so glued to their mobile device, they just can’t have a break from them. This leads to distraction. You often see people in a zombie like state, walking down the street with their eyes glued to their phone - completely oblivious to the traffic and people around them.

Another very dangerous and potentially fatal example, is using a mobile phone whilst driving. Despite the huge media attention of the consequences and the tougher penalty of six points and a £200 fine introduced in March 2017, there are still many flouting the rules. Being in charge of a motor vehicle is one of the biggest responsibilities we will ever have, so ensure your phone is on silent and out of reach to avoid all temptation - that text or phone call can wait!

Communication:

The big irony with digital advancements, is that on face value it appears to create a global network that brings people together. However, you could argue that it has replaced invaluable real-life communication. It’s not an uncommon sight to see two people out together staring at their phones instead of talking to each other. An Ofcom report found 54 per cent admitted to interrupting face-to-face conversations with friends and family to look at their phone.

When spending invaluable time with family or friends, resist that urge to check emails during conversations. If you feel you must check your email or text messages, set a time to do this then switch the device off to give your undivided attention.

Sleep:

The use of technology before bed compromises our quality of sleep, which has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. The light from our screens influences the sleep chemical, melatonin. The Sleep Health Foundation advises repeated use of a bright screen in the evening over five days can delay the body clock by 1.5 hours. This becomes an issue when our busy schedules require an early start.

With poor sleep being linked to an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression as well as weight gain and reduced immunity, it’s vital we ensure we get enough quality shut-eye. After an entire day being surrounded by technology, your mind needs to unwind. To allow this, make sure you give yourself at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before going to sleep.

Physical effects:

Technology is not helping the obesity problem we are currently facing, as it is encouraging us to live more sedentary lives. Being less active has also impacted the number of people with a curved backbone and bad posture. In addition, constant screen time can affect our vision and playing music loudly through earphones can lead to hearing loss.

To improve our physical health, make sure you are getting enough exercise. Enjoy your surroundings and take a nice, long walk. Ensure you give your eyes a break and never play music too loud.

Whilst modern technology has seen some amazing advancements that has benefitted us massively, from healthcare, transport to education to name a few, its important we are not letting it get in the way of us enjoying life. So, make sure you are the master of your devices, and not the slave.

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