Can a Smartphone Make You Stupid?

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The dangers of smartphones.

Everywhere we look these days, we see people with smartphones. They are amazing and so very handy to have. Trust me, I love my iPhone to pieces, but I can' help wondering if my smartphone is making me stupid. Of course, I still think they are valuable, especially when you are looking for a job or need to stay in touch with your network and your inbox.

There have been many times when I have used my phone to find out information that I could have more easily found by simply just looking around me. Especially now with the new iPhone 4s and the virtual assistant Siri, we don't even have to think about how to find information, just ask her.

There have been numerous studies that show that while video games and other technology might help our brains by honing cognitive skills, it's doubtful that smartphones do the same. Because you can store so much information on them, your brain doesn't have to be responsible for remembering the amount of things that it used to.

If you think about, when was the last time you actually had to remember someone's phone number? It's so easy to outsource the storing of information that our brains can get lazy. There have been several times recently when I have been in a shopping center and wondered what other stores were in the area. Rather than walking or driving around and looking, I just used apps like Aroundme and Google Places to get a list. Instead of giving my brain the chance to store the data and remember where things are in relation to others, I took the shortcut - saving a few minutes of time but still not storing any new information.

If you want to improve your brain power, here are some tips for better smartphone use:

Don't use your phone as a hard drive for your brain
- Memorize numbers and places. Try to think about the answer to questions before asking Google. Look for opportunities to exercise your brain first.

Don't rely on GPS for local trips - It's so easy to just put in an address and follow the GPS directions. If you are going to places around town, trust your own knowledge of the area. You might make a wrong turn, but you'll become more familiar with the streets and have a better understanding of how things connect. If you are unsure, try looking at a map before trusting GPS.

Use your phone to keep current with news - Instead of playing another round of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja, use your phone to read news articles and find out about current events. Your brain will thank you.

Use social networking to improve your social skills
- Using social networking apps like Twitter and Facebook can help you practice your social skills and strengthen your ability to empathise with others. Exchanging information with others and feeling connected can help your brain work on communication.

Turn it off when you're driving - There is no reason to use your phone when you are driving. If you are using an app like Google Maps to plan your trip, look over the directions ahead of time and take a picture of the screen before you leave. Then, if you have to consult your directions, you won't have to deal with the frustration and distraction of reloading the page. If you have to send a text, make a call or use an app, pull over. Trying to do it while driving can cause accidents.

Do you have a smartphone? Have you noticed that your brain is getting less exercise? What do you do to keep your brain working at its best? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments.

By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for TechCareersBlog and Nexxt. Along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.

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