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5 reasons to put down the smartphone

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A new study from Baylor University this week found that college-age men and women spend 8-10 hours each day on their smartphones, respectively.

According to New York Magazine’s coverage, 60 percent of study participants admitted that they "felt addicted" to their phones. If the amount of time spent staring at smartphones wasn't disturbing enough, there's also evidence to suggest that engaging with a screen affects people more than they realize. Here are some more reasons doctors and scientists say it's good to give the smartphone a rest.

1. It makes us anxious.

As The Daily Beast’s Melissa Fares wrote in April, there's a new psychological term floating around to describe the panic some people feel without their smartphones: Smartphone Anxiety. A growing dependency and habitual use of smartphones could be contributing to national stress levels here in the U.S. and abroad. Studies conducted in Britain and Korea found heightened levels of stress and anxiety in digital social exchanges.

In the Korean study, teens relied heavily on their phones for communication showed elevated levels of stress, aggression, depression and inability to concentrate. In the British study, researchers found that the compulsive need to immediately respond to a text or email increased stress in study participants.

2. It affects parenting.

If parents really want to do right for their children, they'll keep the smartphone time separate from family time. As NPR reported this spring, parents who ignore their children in favor of their phones may be hurting their kids more than they know, since children learn mostly through face-to-face interactions with their families in early life. An observational study from Boston Medical Center earlier this year watched families eating in restaurants and found that 40 percent - 55 percent of parents used a smartphone during the meal, which often caused children to act out.

3. It can hurt relationships.

“Digital divisiveness” is the term author Joseph Grenny coined in his book, "Crucial Conversations," to define the insensitivity people feel when their significant other interacts with a screen rather than with them. Ninety percent of responses to Grenny's survey said people shouldn't respond to texts or check social media sites in public, and 90 percent reported that friends or family stopped paying attention to them at least once a week in favor of a phone. Twenty-five percent said that behavior caused a "serious rift" in their relationships.

4. It may make us unhappy.

Canadian psychologist Susan Pinker found while researching her book "The Village Effect" that social interactions through a screen are no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Pinker condensed research conducted all over the world and concluded that relationships maintained without face-to-face contact don't create the trust necessary to have a true human connection with another person.

"The benefits humans derive from close interaction — the empathy, the understanding, the firing of mirror neurons that cause us to mimic to whom we are speaking, and the trust all that creates — requires 'being in the same room,' Pinker says," as Maclean's magazine reported Monday.

A University of Michigan study also found that social sites like Facebook made its users feel emotionally worse the more they used it. The reason, researchers speculated for NPR, was an element of social comparison — comparing the lives of others as they appear on Facebook to their own. The study also found that the people who were down after using Facebook were quickly uplifted again after a phone conversation or face-to-face exchange.

5. It actually might be addicting.

Digital addiction psychologist Hilarie Cash says the brain is stimulated through the same "pleasure pathways" in alcohol, drug and gambling addicts as it is for those addicted to the Internet or video games. Traditionally, Cash wrote in a 2011 column, psychology has put Internet addiction into the "behavioral addiction" category with other addictions like gambling.

The number of "digital addicts" is rising. Time reported in April that people who fit the definition of an "addict" — someone who launches apps on phones or tablets 60 or more times daily — doubled in the past year.

"The number of mobile addicts grew from 79 million people to 176 million people between March 2013 and March 2014 — an increase of 123 percent," Time reported.

The average mobile user launches apps about 10 times per day.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson