Smartphones and free time: what are the trends?
The fact that we are hyper-connected is now a fact. If we think of young
people between the ages of 16 and 34, we have no trouble imagining them
online 24/7, especially via their smartphones, and research only confirms
On the one hand, there is a growing demand for information and
entertainment from the most dynamic people in society; on the other hand,
we can clearly see how technology and new media are now pervasive beyond
measure in our daily lives.
How do we use smartphones in our free time?
Until a few years ago, when we went on vacation to the beach, we would
leave our cell phones at home because it could get ruined with sand and
water. Slowly, having our smartphones under the umbrella with us has become
almost as essential as sunscreen and sunglasses. It is just one example of
how our free time is no longer conceivable without a cell phone nearby.
It is often thought that it is mainly the very young who struggle to break
away from electronics. Yet, some research shows the gap between those in
their 30s and 40s with respect to their desire to give up their phones in
their free time. It somehow seems paradoxical: those who have had phones
later in their lives have a harder time staying off them. Why are we
attached to our smartphones? At least three elements are identified:
1. Its ubiquitous presence: the smartphone is always with
us, always at our fingertips, small, pocket-sized, easily consulted
2. Its ease of use: One does not need to “study” much to
know how to use a cell phone; it is a very ready tool for anyone.
3. The unpredictable nature of notifications: if we do not
turn off or mute our cell phone, we are potentially inundated with
notifications, messages, etc. at any time day or night.
How the smartphone affects the way we spend time with family
According to some tourist entertainers who organize the free time of
friends, couples, and families for a living, there have been many major
changes in recent decades seen at the dinner table. As reported in the
Smartphones and vacations: how do we behave?
, tourist entertainer Dario relates:
I constantly see families not talking to each other, all glued to their
phones, each with their own apps. I, in my own small way, during the
briefing at the beginning of each vacation, always invite guests not to use
their cell phones at the table, because I think it is an important time to
be together. Until a few years ago, in restaurants you would see babies
crying and throwing their food around. Now you see heads bent over screens.
I see two-year-olds watching YouTube videos before they even know how to
Stimulating physical activity and social interaction in younger
Tourist entertainers have also observed changes in behavior of
12–18-year-olds, the so-called “Junior Club.” “Since 2010/2011, I’ve
noticed a radical change,” Dario again explains, referring to his
before they were tireless kids playing all the time, now being able to get
them to play a game of beach volleyball is quite an achievement. I see
tired kids with little energy. There is a problem related to sedentariness,
I think. In our work we try to propose new and stimulating activities: one
of them, for example, is ‘Animator for a day’ which involves the kid with
working with our staff from morning to night, making them feel responsible.
Establishing free zones
After carving out hours without the use of smartphones, which we must
slowly try to do more often, the second step of digital detoxing is the
establishment of “free zones.” That is, create particular contexts where we
avoid using our phones as much as possible, for example, during outings
with one’s partner, during evenings with friends, while playing with our
children, or when visiting relatives. Getting it right may seem trivial,
but if we are addicted to notifications, messages, and e-mails, at first it
will not be easy at all. We can use small expedients to avoid looking at
our phones. For example, we can use a digital watch and when we feel the
need to pick up the phone, we first look at the watch screen. Can we use
digital detox techniques at work as well? The answer is yes. Of course,
everything is based on organization. To avoid being constantly disturbed by
emails, we can only choose times at regular intervals to check our inbox.
During the rest of the day, we silence our phones and continue our tasks
without interruption. In addition, we should try to avoid reading emails,
answering calls, or not disconnecting from electronic devices once work
hours are over.