Police Psychology | Locked Away in Your Cell
Police psychology has had a new enemy these days, and it’s not typical ol’ police stress. The Cell Phone. You ever hold your cell phone up at a concert to demand an encore? That means you are cool! Scan a document into you cell phone. That’s really cool! Bluetooth music from cell phone to your car radio. You’re cool. How about take a picture using your cell phone? Too ordinary, not so cool. Play a video game using your cell phone? You’re just normal. Who doesn’t do that? Research has shown that the average age for a child to get a cell phone is six years old. Yes, 53% got it by six year old. That’s crazy! When I was in high school, I didn’t have a cell phone. Of course, they didn’t even exist. Yet, today you’d be hard-pressed to find a middle-school student today who is not obsessed with his or her phone. It’s the Swiss army knife of the 21st century. Yech!
Prisoner to Your Cell
Cell phones have changed policing and many other jobs in society. For instance, with the aid of a cell phone, you can always be contacted. Your boss and your work are never more than a phone call or text message away. There is no such thing as getting away from it. Many people even use their cell phone to keep up-to-date with work information even when they are taking a personal day, or when they are on vacation. In police work specifically, cell phones have also changed the job in other ways. Traffic accidents are now reported or even recorded live through cell phone use. Apps such as Waze allow people to report where police officers are located so people can slow up and avoid tickets. Perhaps most chillingly is the idea that your family can constantly contact you, even when you are in the middle of a high-stress situation. I have had two cops report to me that their spouses called them in the middle of a shoot out. Even in American Sniper, the main character was talking to his wife in the middle of a battle. That does happen in real life. That’s one way to keep your head out of a game that is literally life or death, and it’s an issue that crops up pretty frequently in police psychology, as it is one of the leading causes of police stress. Cell phones also increase a sense of urgency in people. This messes up the time management matrix that is so important for keeping your life organized and prioritized properly. When everything, however small and inconvenient, suddenly becomes much more urgent, you are forced to push the real substance of life into the backseat.
Another area that cell phones have changed our lives is during meals. You can be at a family meal in which everyone is silently staring at their personal devices, or on a date where the person pays more attention to their phone screen than they do to you. Talk about the grass being greener, people are on the phone on a date! Cell phones have severely impacted the extent to which we can communicate in person with each other. If you have not experienced a meal like this, go to a restaurant and take a good look around. Guaranteed many of the patrons there will be on their phones, or will have their phones right there next to their plates in case a text message or notification comes up that requires their immediate attention. I mean, it really is too much to ask your best friend to pick out an outfit all on her own. It’s obviously time-sensitive information for you to know the latest celebrity gossip the second it is posted online.
The Cell Phone Addiction
“Addicted”—it’s a strange word. It means you are so dependent upon something that to give it up would cause unpleasant effects on your mental or physical well being. It is sad to think that today we are so dependent upon technology, and specifically our phones, that many of us experience a moment of panic if we can’t find our cellular devices. In fact, many people today are choosing to forgo a house phone in favor of just using their cell phones. Unfortunately, this change isn’t all good. Just like people ignored the cigarette research 50 years ago, we are ignoring that talking on a cell phone, even hands free causes many car accidents, especially in the young. Twenty-seven percent of accidents are directly related to the cell phone, at least as of three years ago. The current statistics are sure to be higher. I watch as many of my clients and friends struggle to communicate in person. Talking to people face-to-face makes them uncomfortable. I know, as someone involved in police psychology, I talk to people for a living, but everyone (no matter how uncomfortable it makes you) still needs to develop and nurture basic communication skills in order to survive in this world. In addition, I see many of them struggle with separation. Having a cell phone makes people feel connected, and giving that up, even for a split second, is so horrifying to many people that it drains them emotionally and mentally. Kids throw tantrums when their cell phone or tablets are taken away. When you find undue emotional reaction to being without a cell phone, you are definitely in trouble and should consider weaning yourself off a little. Just like any addiction, you cannot be expected to quit cold turkey. You need to leave your cell phone alone in steps—baby steps. Start off small and build up slowly from there. Here are some tips to help wean you off of technology. If a slow process doesn’t work, there are even cell phone addiction rehabilitation program like the one at reStart in Washington State.
- Stay in the Moment. It is alright to use your cell phone to check messages or see what is going on when waiting in line at a post office or at the grocery store, but when you are face-to-face with another person, shut it down. Make sure you connect more with people, not a cell phone. On your deathbed you are not going to want to be comforted by a piece of technology. Let people know you are into what they are saying to you and who they are. It will make a big difference in your life.
- Start the Weaning. If you are texting ten hours a day, go to nine. Five hours a day go to four. Find a way to cut back a little and you will gain control over your cell phone use. Weaning off of a device which has become so vital in our society is difficult, but you can do it. Start the process.
- Turn it off at times. This is a hard one, but when you are on vacation, or home really sick for a day, or you are on a date, turn the damn thing off! Whatever is there will be there most likely in an hour or two. Practice times where the off switch just turns it off. Cell phones are high maintenance and high stress. Turn it off and deal with whatever is going on whether it is a trip to the lake or a clogged throat. If you need to cut out some stress at a time in your life, shut the phone off.
Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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