Voice of the Notre Dame Prep Saints

The Seraphim

Cell phones being used more for self-improvement

Ellie O'Donoghue, Staff Writer

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Like a typical high school student, senior Hannah Gebhart uses her phone everyday and   “probably every hour.”

But, unlike the perceived stereotype that she is using her phone for constant texting or social media, she is using it for self-improvement as a health tracker.

While mobile technology usually gets a bad rap, with the advancement of mobile technology and the increased use of cell phones, physical and mental health can be monitored and improved by students with the use of their personal cellular devices.

In a NDP Serphim poll, almost half of NDP students claimed they use health related applications on their cell phones.  

In March 2016, Gebhart began using the app MyFitnessPal to “monitor and track heart rate, miles, steps, distance, and calories” though her Fitbit band.

“I started using it to help track my workouts, what I was eating, and to help maintain a healthy weight,” Gebhart said.

Like Hannah, NDP senior Brody Bergevin uses the health app Sleepcycle to track his sleep and wake him up when he has completed a healthy amount of time sleeping.

“I really like it; I am always up at 6:30 a.m., and it keeps me awake,” Brody said.

Having apps constantly available through mobile devices can be less costly than going to a doctor or fitness center that would track fitness and nutrition.

Senior Hannah Gebhart showcases her Fitbit, one of the many useful fitness apps available. Photo: Ellie O’Donoghue

In fact, according to the Forbes article “11 Health And Fitness Apps That Achieve Top Results” by Jennifer Cohen, 10 of the 11 of the best health and fitness apps that achieve the best results are free of cost.  

Also, apps can be used for personal improvement and benefit without other people “knowing and getting in my business, “said Gebhart.

With stellar reviews and many success stories through the use of the app, Gebhart completely trusts the app and knows it is reliable through her own success.

With an increased percentage of obesity in humans around the world, cell phones can be a useful tool to improve the health among unhealthy individuals.

According to a study done by R. Doumit, when subjects used cell phone cameras to take pictures of food intake instead of writing it in a food diary, participants had a higher intake of meat and vegetables, more accurate portion sizes and were positive toward using their phones to measure food intake.

Like this study, Junior Josh Babu uses his phone to track his diet and keep control of his calorie intake.

“When you snack, you can’t tell, but when you see how much you are eating you understand how much food you’re intaking, tracking the food I eat in my phone helps visually what I am eating, and when and how much I am eating every day” said Babu.

In poll of Notre Dame Preparatory students, 43.8 percent used various applications on their cellular devices for health purposes.

Common applications that students use include Fitbit, Sworkit, MyFitnessPal,  Nike Running, Pink Pad, and Bedtime. All these apps are free of charge although some do include in-app purchases.

Certain cell phone brands include pre-downloaded apps that can aid to the health of a person as well.

For example, IPhone owners have accessibility to the app Apple Health. Downloaded with purchase, Apple Health provides various health related services for its users.

Some of the services provided by the app include monitoring of a person’s vitals, reproductive health and body measurements.

Another incredible feature is the option to input a person’s Medical ID, which is medical information about a person that may become important during an emergency. Examples of this type of information are allergies and medical conditions. This information can be accessed without unlocking an IPhone.

In addition, Apple Health allows the user to input whether they are an organ donor and that information can be accessed to be used in a medical emergency.

For the NDP surveyed students who did not currently use an application, 40 percent said they are willing to use an app on their phone for health purposes.

And, of the total amount of students polled, 72.9 percent said they would trust an app on their phone for health purposes.  

Although students are quick to trust their phones and its ability to improve their health, there is a possibility of misuse.

In a study done by Ohio State University, the relationship between media time on computers and cell phones were studied in correlation to how students slept.

The study found that there is a direct and positive correlation between the cell phone usage before sleeping and insomnia.

Additionally, it was concluded that this type of multi-media usage can worsen a person’s sleep and attribute to the sleep-decreasing factors such as making it harder and longer to fall asleep and altering the quality of a person’s sleep.

The data at left is Senior Hannah Gebhart’s tracked run and at right is the data from her run. Both were calculated by her cell phone. Photo: Hannah Gebhart.

Cell phones bringing comfort

Fitness apps are not the only benefit Hannah gains from her cell phone, but also the immediate connection she gains from her family and friends by texting or phone calls.

Gebhart talks to her mom “every time something happens,” and her mom and friends can help her when she has a problem that she needs help to figure it out.

She said this connection with her friends and family brings emotional support throughout days that are stressful, and encouraging texts and phone calls make a difference in her life.

Bergevin said, “My phone has had a positive influence on my social life, I am constantly connected with my friends through snap streaks, texting and social media; it makes me more of a social person.”

Like Gebhart’s experience, according to “Teens and Cell Phones,” author Docksai found in school studies that cell phones make an environment comfortable for students.  Mobile phones are a familiar source that students gravitate to in order to relieve stress and find consolation.

In a study done by Wakayma Medical University by M. Toda, volunteer medical students were studied on how the usage of mobile phones helped them cope with stress. Research found that mobile phones, rather than the use of drugs and alcohol, could be used as a temporary escape from stress.

In addition, the use of phones to release stress can increase communication and the person who has the stress can gain social support from the online community.

With access to the Internet and other resources, participants can better plan how to problem solve and how to deal with stress. The use of cell phones to get rid of stress can create a web community of support from other people going through similar issues and generate a boost in self confidence.

In a poll of Notre Dame Preparatory students, it was found that 83.3 percent of students used their cellular devices to avoid uncomfortable situations.  

Senior Elle Haugland would use her phone to dodge social situations when she took public transport.

“When I get on the bus and people are everywhere I put on my headphones and avoid them and people won’t talk to me,” said Haugland.

Even when there is nothing to do on her phone, Haugland will keep her eyes on her screen.

“Literally no one will be texting me, I have already looked through all my social media, but I will just be swiping left and right on my phone to avoid interaction” said Haugland.

For Elle, this action of looking towards her phone is not just to avoid the uncomfortable situation of sitting on a bus full of strangers, but for her own safety.

“The world that we live in is not a safe place so it is better to avoid strangers” said Haugland.

Although checking a person’s cell phone in awkward situations provides a distraction from the uncomfortable circumstances of arriving too early to a date or being in a long line at Starbucks, the need to constantly look and have a cell phone can possibly create an unhealthy habit.

In a study done by Baylor University, it was found that women college students spend an average of at least ten hours on their cell phones a day.

While male students spend only an average of eight hours, the amount of screen time still has a negative impact on the student’s academic performances and opportunities.

“As cell phone functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility” said researcher James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

While the study acknowledged that the cell phone could be used in uncomfortable situations as well as become a stress reliever for students, it can also make students aggravated and upset when their cell phones are not in sight.

“(Cell phones) can be both freeing and enslaving at the same time” said the study by Baylor University.

“I would say I am not dependent on it, I just use it when I’m bored or in an uncomfortable or uncomfortable situation” said Haugland.

Cell phones for mental health improvement

The mental health app industry is on the rise and is helping an increasing amount of people deal with conditions from depression to addiction every day.

According to the World Health Organization, about 29 percent of people will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime.

With the increasing percentage of global smartphone adoption rate, mobile phones have the ability to reach these people without access to care.

On his smart watch, Bergevin uses a meditative breathing app that alarms him at 12 p.m. to take two minutes of deep breathing.

“It lowers my heart rate and calms me down during a stressful day, which is really beneficial to my mental health,” said Bergevin.

According to Jen Martin, the program manager at MindTech, apps are a ”way of people getting access to treatment that’s flexible and fits in with their lifestyle and also deals with the issues around stigma — if people are not quite ready to maybe go and see their doctor, then it might be a first step to seeking help.”

Cell phones also have the ability to stimulate brain activity.

In a study done by Dr. Nora Volkow and her colleagues, 47 volunteers were recruited to have their brain activity measured twice by a PET scanner.

Both times the volunteer had a cell phone strapped to each ear for a hour, but one measurement the phones were turned off and the other measurement one phones was left off and one phone was turned on, but muted.

The final scans showed a small increase in the brain’s use of glucose (blood sugar) when the phone was on.

The results were ambiguous on whether this result was positive or negative.

Dr. Volkow said,  “I cannot say if it is bad that they [cell phones] are increasing glucose metabolism, or if it could be good.”

There are debates whether this increase in the brain’s use of glucose is a relationship to cancer, or brain activation.

  Yet, due to conflicting evidence that shows that the unlikely relationship between cell phones and cancer, this study concerning the energy being emitted with phones illuminates the possibility of the brain’s being stimulated to work harder and think faster.

Babu uses trivia apps on his phone to stimulate his brain.

“Trivia apps keeping mental acuity sharp and I love learning so these apps are extremely beneficial” said Babu.

Sophomore Josh Babu plays a trivia game on his cell phone. Photo: Ellie O’Donoghue

Tumors and cell phones: myth

When Bergevin sleep next to his phone, he said, “My mom freaks outs.”

With the cell phones becoming more prevalent and additive in human’s lives, rumors and conspiracies arise with the long-term health risks that come with cell phones.

One conspiracy theory states that being in constant contact with a cell phone can cause cancer and the growth of internal tumors.

According to the National Cancer Institute, many people believe that cell phones cause cancer because they “emit radiofrequency energy (radio waves), a form of non-ionizing radiation, from their antennas.”

Senior Zain Majeed said, “Any nucleotides can causes cancer, like the sun, for example, anything that gives off any sort of radiation. The higher the frequency, the more likely to get cancer, so because cell phones have such a small frequency, like radio waves, it’s extremely unlikely to get cancer from your cell phone.”

The National Institute of Environmental Health Studies is performing an ongoing controlled study of the effects of radiofrequency energy, the type used in cell phones, on rodents.  

The preliminary results of this study were released in May, and the results showed no “clear evidence of a relationship between cell phone use and cancer.”

As Majeed puts it, “Getting cancer from a cell phone is like standing next to a microwave and trying to get cancer.”

Health risks with cell phones

Even with the numerous health and mental benefits that come with the use of cell phones, there are some risks associated with the overuse of them.

The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.

One in every four car crashes are caused by texting and driving, and according to the American Automobile Association, 94 percent of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway.

Texting and driving is not the only dangerous combination, texting, looking at your phone, and listening to music on your phone while walking can be risky as well.

According to Dr. Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo in New York, “When texting, you’re not as in control with the complex actions of walking, while talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can’t see the path in front of you.”

In 2010, Ohio State University researchers found that about 1500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms due to injuries related to walking with their cell phones.  

“Yes, they are a hazard to themselves and others, as their distraction makes it more likely that they may walk into someone else and knock them over,” said Jack L. Nasar, Ph.D., a professor and program chair of City and Regional Programming at Ohio State University.

Although there are risks that arise with the use of cell phones, benefits of cell phone usage are present as well.

“In an industrializing and technologizing world, the use of apps is more of a millennium appeal and necessary for our developing society” said Babu.

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Voice of the Notre Dame Prep Saints
Cell phones being used more for self-improvement