Australia's smartphone penetration level among the highest in the developed world

Are smartphones dumbing us down?

Associate Professor in Information Technology at Charles Sturt University (CSU) Yeslam Al-Saggaf said there was certainly a case for it.

Wagga-based Professor Al-Saggaf, whose research interests lie in social media and ethics in computing, said reliance on devices was changing our relationship with the world.

“I saw a woman in Wagga riding a horse and flicking through the pages on her smartphone,” he said.

“She could have been enjoying a very authentic experience; people are now using phones while pushing a pram or going for a walk.

“It’s become an extension of the person and shapes their relationship with the world; it’s become part of you and it’s embedded in your experience.”

Professor Al-Saggaf said while increasingly people used technology in public spaces there should be some exemptions.

“Using your phone in a restaurant or in a cinema is a bit rude,” he said.

“People have paid for that shared experience; you’re not alone and other people are using the space and you should be mindful of that.

“FOMO – or fear of missing out – on social media updates is becoming very common.”

Australia’s smartphone penetration sits at 84 per cent, which is the fourth largest market globally after Norway (91 per cent), South Korea (89 per cent) and the Netherlands (87 per cent), the 2016 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey showed.

Professor Al-Saggaf said technology also enhanced our lives immeasurably.

“It opens so many opportunities; it helps us to remember dates and it captures journeys and moments forever,” he said.

“It helps us mediate our way in the world; it helps us enact action and change.”

Professor Al-Saggaf said while children should have access to technology, it needed to be age appropriate.

“It’s not going to work denying children technology but parents have to work with younger children and educate them about how to use it responsibly,” he said.

“Social media is not appropriate for children under 13 as there are numerous risks involved.

“Technology should be a privilege not a right.”

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