WINDSOR (CUP)—A new survey suggests Canadians are becoming addicted to their smartphones; good news for those in the business, but phone dependency is a real problem.

On behalf of Canadian cellphone provider, Wind, Vision Critical recently conducted an online survey of 1501 Canadians to determine what they would give up in order to keep their smartphones.

“The response to pets was the most surprising,” says Alexandra Maxwell, a spokesperson for Wind. The survey shows that 17 percent of smartphone users would give up their pets. “I just didn’t see that coming, but I guess some people just love their phones more.”

According to the survey, 40 percent would give up video games, 28 percent would give up alcohol, and 23 percent would part with coffee rather than give up their smartphone.

“Surveys are a great way to check the pulse of consumers. With more and more Canadians switching to smartphones, we wanted to see just how much Canadians loved them,” Maxwell says.

“I’d feel pretty weird without my phone,” says Hanna Bellacicco, who wouldn’t give up her pet in exchange for her phone but would cut out coffee to stay connected. “It has to be near me. Even when it’s charging it has to be near me.”

Ken Hart, a Psychology professor at the University of Windsor, was surprised by the results of the survey and said it could indicate an addiction trend. Hart defined addiction as a loss of control. “The person feels a compulsive need,” he says. “This overwhelming urge to engage in the behaviour is very strong, and the person is unable to restrain themselves.”

“[Addictions] cause your life to become smaller and narrower, because other activities in your life are being displaced by this,” Hart says. “Important life goals that you’re trying to achieve don’t get accomplished, so you start becoming unhappy.”

A Pew Research Center study of 2200 Americans last Mar. indicates that about 10 percent feel they use their phones too much, suggesting people are becoming aware of potential abuse.

“I use my smartphone every day,” says Allisa Oliverio, who admits to feeling like she’s addicted to the device. “Without it I think I’d be lost… It’s always with me; it’s always in my hand.”

Oliverio said that she sets boundaries with her use, such as avoiding using it when she’s hanging out with friends since she views that as rude behaviour.

Other countries are already struggling with smartphone addiction. According to the Toronto Star, South Korea has started a program to help children with their addiction to the Internet through various gadgets, including tablets and smartphones. The South Korean government estimates that 2.55 million of its people are addicted.

Mohsan Beg, clinical director at UWindsor’s Student Counselling Centre, has not yet encountered issues of smartphone addiction among students. “We do see some internet addiction,” he says, adding that patients typically have issues with video game use.

“[Students] engage in the technological world to escape the real world,” explains Beg. He said symptoms of depression are often tied to internet addiction and people often resort to escapism by playing video games to cope.

Hart said that improper smartphone use draws people’s attention away from the current task at hand, be that studying, driving, or holding a conversation.

“As an instructor, I see students use smartphones in class, even when they’re not supposed to,” Hart says, adding that despite his policy against mobile phones, students violate it regularly, even after seeing him confiscate phones. “It can be dangerous in the sense that it can harm their academic well-being.”

Hart said he was unaware of a program to treat such an addiction, but said that he could see an increased need for one in the future. “The larger problem is being distracted…maybe they’re addicted to distractions,” Hart says. “On the other hand…feelings of depression and loneliness can be alleviated by the smartphone, which is an outlet for social engagement.”

Hart uses the internet mostly for work and engages in social media sparingly. He only uses a landline and doesn’t own a cellphone. “I don’t need one.”

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