|"No-Mobile Phone Phobia" by German psychiatrist, psychologist and neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer was recently translated into Korean and published by local publishing house The Man.|
German neuroscientist warns of dysfunctional side of digital technology
By Kang Hyun-kyung
In the digital age, life without a smartphone seems unthinkable for many people.
Since 2006 when Apple unveiled the first iPhone as an innovative device, smartphones have reshaped people's lives with their versatile functions. They enable people to connect with others through calls, take and share photos on social media, consume news and other content and shop for their daily supplies.
Amid sweeping praise for the conveniences digital devices offer us, a German neuroscientist unveils the dysfunctional side of smartphones which he claims has remained in a "blind spot."
In his new book "No-Mobile Phone Phobia" written in German and translated into Korean, psychiatrist, psychologist and neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer identifies the smartphone, along with other digital devices, as the source of multiple, chronic problems that modern society is grappling with.
He asserts that people's overexposure to digital technology makes them sick, obese, vision impaired, and, in the worst case, could even induce suicide.
Citing a British research paper, the author claims teenage girls who spent three or more hours per day on Facebook are more likely to suffer depression than those who didn't. U.S. research found a measurable relationship between teens' exposure to digital technology and suicide, suggesting teen suicide rates doubled between 2007 and 2015.
Spitzer clarifies the purpose of his book, saying it aims to raise people's awareness of the toxic impact of smartphones based on scientific studies. "I summarized other scientists' research results about the impact of smartphones on our lives which were published in credible journals and magazines such as Science and Nature. So the purpose of this book is to present the essence of their findings in laymen's terms to help my readers," he says in the preface of the book.
Spitzer, who is also medical director of the Psychiatric University Hospital in Ulm, Germany, presents some startling data associated with the rise of digital devices to convince his readers.
One of them is the negative impact of digital technology on education.
Over the past decade, some Scandinavian countries, including Sweden, Finland and Denmark, had pushed for the digitalization of classrooms in the hope that students could benefit from technology to improve their learning.
The result of those governments' investment in tech-friendly education was devastating.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)'s 2015 report, which was designed to find relationships between computer access and use in schools and performance in PISA assessment, found a reverse impact of digitalization of classroom: it lowered students' math performance. Finland, for example, was one of the countries topping the PISA assessment two decades ago. But the country disappeared from the top-tier group in the recent PISA assessment.
Spitzer says the Northern European countries' failed experiment inspired Australia to scrap their policy to improve students' access to computers in classrooms in 2016.
The German neuroscientist claims the smartphone has not only hurt human health and education but also puts democracy in crisis by allowing the spread of fake news and other baseless stories through social media.
A surge of myopia among Korean teens, hypertension caused by sleep deprivation and anxiety are some of the devastating consequences of people's abuse of smartphones.
A 2015 survey of 2,658 American children aged between eight and 18 found children aging between eight and 12 spend on average six hours per day engaging with digital media and those aged 13 to 18 spend nine hours.
The more time children spend watching TV, Spitzer says the more obese they become. Their academic performance is also negatively affected and children become more aggressive, he says.
"There are still pros and cons debates about whether TV makes people obese, stupid and aggressive or not, but based on accumulated scientific research, their negative relationships seem to be as obvious as that of the impact of smoking on lung cancer," the book reads.
"No Mobile Phone Phobia" is Spitzer's fourth book dealing with the harmful impacts of digital technology on people's lives with a particular focus on the deleterious effect on children and teens. The German book was recently translated into Korean and published by the local publishing house, The Man.