Even “Just Checking” Your Cell Can Be Distracting

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Uh oh. Distraction alert! | Source: Shutterstock.com

I used to pride myself on my ability to function with no cell phone. I didn’t get one until I was a junior in high school, so I used land lines and mooched off the cell devices of my friends. On the whole, I was pretty cool with limited phone access.

Last week we wrote about a teen who had to sign his parent’s iPhone contract, and his mom had some rules about when and where he couldn’t use the phone. Your parent telling you how to use your phone can be kind of annoying, but I do agree with her general point that cutting ties with your phone once in a while is good so you don’t live a totally distracted life. But I know it’s not easy!

Today on the Women’s Health website, I read about a new study from Michigan State University that tested how 2.8 second mini-distractions affected people’s ability to carry out a task that they’d been able to do with only a few errors in a distraction-free zone. Even when the distraction was over, the participants were twice as likely to start messing up on their initial assignment. Now, the study itself didn’t specifically use cell phones as the cause of the distraction, but the lead researcher mentioned cell phones as an example of these types of distractions that could impact accuracy in real world situations.

It got me thinking about if maybe I’m more addicted to my cell than I originally thought. Back in school, I actually was pretty good about not texting during my classes, but I did often do the reach in my bag to “just check” if I got a message. I figured those lost couple seconds couldn’t really hurt. After reading about this study, I wonder though how those moments may have been worse for my academic engagement than I thought.

The lead researcher also talked about how it shows that our safety could be affected if those responsible for it are victims to these types of small interruptions. I can actually think of some times where my own cell distraction could possibly be affecting my health, as well. There’s been way too many nights where I’m about to settle into bed, I see the glow of an incoming message, and I’ll go check it. Even if I don’t respond to the message, I still haven’t let my body fully focus on sleep. And what about driving? We know not to text and drive, but if just glancing at your phone sitting over on the other seat could be more distracting than it seems, that’s really dangerous too.

Having my cell phone on me gives me a sense of safety and security, so I’m certainly not just going to ditch it. I guess I just always thought because I wasn’t having all-day text conversations and I kept my phone on a quieter setting, I was proving my distance from my cell. Turns out though, I may be more affected than I thought. Guess it’s time for me to make my space boundaries with my cell super clear.

Were you surprised by how even short interruptions can affect you? Would you say your cell phone causes most of your distractions? What else does? Do you think you need a break from your cell sometimes? Tell me in the comments!

 

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  • LittleRedWolfGirl

    Like you, I didn’t get my first phone until I was a Jr. (my 16th birthday, actually). Since there weren’t any SmartPhones, it was quite as distracting because there weren’t as many things to do with it, and I had it off in class because my school was pretty strict about phones being out in class. When I did get a SmartPhone a few years ago, I was pretty attached to it at first, because of all the fun things you could do, but the novelty of it wore off after a while. I no longer have a SmartPhone, so my internet access on it is limited. There will be times I go out and just forget it at home, or else I won’t remember to even turn it on until about 1 in the morning.