A solution to phone addiction?

phoneI have been thinking a little bit further with regards societies addiction to our mobile devices and in particular mobile phones, a subject I only recently posted on (read my earlier post here).   My thoughts were initially focused on my need to address this issue as an individual.   I have two main mobile devices in a mobile phone and a tablet device with the tablet device being equipped with 4G.    The issue at hand was the fact that my evenings and weekends are often interspersed with the stereo chirps from my devices as tweets and other social media contributions are received.   Upon hearing the chirps I am quite often drawn to pick up my tablet in particular to check what exciting new information has been shared.   The sense of anticipation of exciting information draws me to my device however the repeated disappointment upon reading the information appears insufficient in convincing me of the real nature of the information a chirp is likely to signal.   Equipped with the knowledge of this addiction towards checking my mobile devices I sought to change my own practice and quickly found the solution in “do not disturb” mode on my android devices with exceptions setup to allow for phone calls and alarms.   This now means I check my device when I want to as opposed to when notifications draw me to my devices.  I am more in control.

It was at this point that I again gave thought to society as a whole as clearly this solution might work for others, however most people are likely to leave their devices with default settings.    In Thaler and Sunstein’s (2008) book, Nudge, reference is made to the tendency for people to adopt the default state even when other options may be better.    They suggest that we can help people make a better choice, we can nudge them, by changing the default option.    With this in mind I wonder what the impact would be if Android and Apple phones all came with “do not disturb” or similar enabled for the hours from 10pm to 6am or a similar time period as a default.    Would this nudge people towards being less addicted to their devices?    Users could always disable this feature if they want, as they can enable it currently however the default setting would no longer result in a chirp or other audible signal to draw us to our devices at all hours of the night.

I wonder if Google or Apple would be willing to consider this minor change in the interests of society, at least as a pilot study?



Thaler and C. Sunstein, 2008, Yale University Press.


Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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