Study suggests a direct link between screen time and ADHD in teens

Image: Study suggests a direct link between screen time and ADHD in teens

Adding to the list of health concerns associated with excessive screen time, one study suggests that there could be a link between the length of time teenagers spend online and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The two-year study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), observed more than 2,500 high school students from Los Angeles.

Digital media and the attention span of teenagers

A team of researchers analyzed data from the teenagers who had shorter attention spans the more they became involved in different digital media platforms for the duration of the experiment.

The JAMA study observed adolescents aged 15 and 16 years periodically for two years. The researchers asked the teenagers about the frequency of their online activities and if they had experienced any of the known symptoms of ADHD.

As the teenagers’ digital engagement rose, their reported ADHD symptoms also went up by 10 percent. The researchers noted that based on the results of the study, even if digital media usage does not definitively cause ADHD, it could cause symptoms that would result in the diagnosis of ADHD or require pharmaceutical treatment.

Experts believe that ADHD begins in the early stages of childhood development. However, the exact circumstances, regardless if they are biological or environmental, have yet to be determined.

Adam Leventhal, a University of Southern California psychologist and senior author of the study, shared that the research team is now analyzing the occurrence of new symptoms that were not present when the study began.

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Other studies about digital engagement have implied that there is an inverse relationship with happiness. The less people used digital media, the more they reported feeling an overall sense of happiness. (Related: The social media paradox: Teens who are always online feel more lonely.)

The researchers concluded that the teenagers might have exhibited ADHD symptoms from the outset due to other factors. However, it is possible that excessive digital media usage can still aggravate these symptoms.

Fast facts about ADHD

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is commonly diagnosed in children. However, it can also be diagnosed in older individuals. ADHD can be difficult to diagnose. Since several symptoms of ADHD are similar to normal childhood behaviors, the disorder itself can be hard to detect.

The symptoms of ADHD may include forgetting completed tasks, having difficulty sitting still, having difficulty staying organized, and having trouble concentrating or focusing.

  • Men are at least three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females.
  • During their lifetimes, at least 13 percent of men will be diagnosed with ADHD, as opposed to only 4.2 percent in women.
  • The average age of ADHD diagnosis is seven years old.
  • The symptoms of the condition will usually manifest when a child is aged three to six years old.
  • ADHD is not solely a childhood disorder. At least four percent of American adults older than 18 may have ADHD.

This disorder does not increase an individual’s risk for other conditions or diseases. However, some people with ADHD, mostly children, have a higher chance of experiencing different coexisting conditions. These can make social situations, like school, more difficult for kids with ADHD.

Some coexisting conditions of ADHD may include:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Bed-wetting problems
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorders and difficulties (e.g., antisocial behavior, fighting, and oppositional defiant disorder)
  • Depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Sleep disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Tourette syndrome

Minimize your child’s ADHD risk by reading more articles with tips on how to manage their internet use at

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5G Networks Are Not Just About Smartphones

Next generation wireless networks are built to connect cars, homes and machines using higher bandwidth and lower latency to power more than just smartphones.

It’s no longer science fiction to see smart homes automatically control lights or alert owners whenever the refrigerator needs restocking. Already in many cities, smart cars drive autonomously, powered by sophisticated, internet-connected computing technologies.

These and other technologies that rely on intelligence from the internet are exactly what technology leaders have in mind as they build 5G, the next generation wireless network set to become available by 2020.

This 5G technology is not just for smartphones, according to Robert Topol, general manager of Intel’s 5G Business and Technology.

He said 5G is designed to be smarter and better performing than current 4G technology, so it can bring communications, computing and artificial intelligence closer to our daily lives.

“5G is not just the next G,” said Topol. “It’s about handling more data, whether it’s from a refrigerator, washing machine, vehicle or flying drone.”

This could blur lines between the spaces we use for work, home and play, he said.

5G networks

It has the potential to bring a new era of interconnectedness, where cars, industrial automation and new augmented and virtual reality experiences will rely on a robust wireless network.

Faster Connection

According to research firm IHS Markit, the number of things connected to the internet will reach 20 billion this year, 30.7 billion in 2020 and more than 75 billion by 2025.

“There will be billions of devices and billions of connected things coming onboard in the next five or six years,” he said. Over time, 5G will make things smarter by connecting them to more computer-powered intelligence.

Topol said 5G is not only about broader broadband, it’s about low latency, reliable communications and handling machine-to-machine communication.

No-Lag Entertainment

New 5G networks will help wirelessly connected devices to stream high quality content, according to Carrie MacGillivray, vice president of IDC’s Mobility and IoT.

“You’ll be able to download even a 4K video in a second or two, as opposed to waiting minutes to download a full movie,” she said.

It could open new entertainment experiences and coverage of live events. The technology is being tested now, but the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is slated to be the first true showcase for 5G technology, said Darrell West, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.

“The Japanese see that as a great opportunity to incorporate new approaches to covering sports events,” said West.

For example, spectators could use their mobile devices to watch an event from different vantages — switching among a player’s camera-mounted helmet, a bird’s eye view from above and a traditional side-on view. When a spectator points a phone at a player, augmented reality (AR) could be used to display a short bio of the player, superimposed on the screen.

“5G will allow a full stereoscopic view, a mix of virtual and augmented reality, and an ability to share that experience with others — whether they are in the next room or halfway around the world,” said Topol.

Smart Health and Safety

New 5G connections could help digital devices deliver high quality medical care in real time at an affordable cost.

Innovative wearable and remote care technologies that connect to wireless networks can benefit from 5G networks. One example might be a soft robotic finger — piloted by the U.K.’s National Health Service at the Centre for Robotic Research at King’s College in London — that physicians can use to remotely examine a patient’s abdomen. MacGillivray said the device allows doctors to palpate tumors and diagnose based on haptic feedback.

healthcare technology
5G networks could help make cutting edge healthcare technology mobile and more accessible.

With the development of autonomous vehicles, safety is an important factor and early applications will leverage new technologies built into 5G. The new networks will help make smart car technology more accessible.

Although some cars are currently semi-autonomous — many high-end models come with automatic braking, a crash-prevention technology that automatically applies the brakes when the car approaches an obstacle at an unsafe speed — such capabilities will expand quickly over the next several years. Automatic braking has already started showing up in less expensive models.

“The network will become faster, the latency less and the machines able to talk to each other more,” said Topol.

That will pave the way for a smarter, connected world.

Are smartphones making our children mentally ill?

Leading child psychotherapist Julie Lynn Evans believes easy and constant access to the internet is harming youngsters

Julie Lynn Evans at her home in Hammersmith

Julie Lynn Evans at her home in Hammersmith

Julie Lynn Evans has been a child psychotherapist for 25 years, working in hospitals, schools and with families, and she says she has never been so busy.

“In the 1990s, I would have had one or two attempted suicides a year – mainly teenaged girls taking overdoses, the things that don’t get reported. Now, I could have as many as four a month.”

And it’s not, she notes, simply a question of her reputation as both a practitioner and a writer drawing so many people to the door of her cosy consulting rooms in west London where we meet. “If I try to refer people on, everyone else is choc-a-bloc too. We are all saying the same thing. There has been an explosion in numbers in mental health problems amongst youngsters.”

The Care Minister, Norman Lamb, has this week been promising a “complete overhaul” of the system that deals with these troubled tweens and teens, after a Department of Health report highlighted the negative impact of funding cuts. And the three main party leaders have all made encouraging pre-election noises about putting more resources into mental health services.

Yet, while the down-to-earth Lynn Evans welcomes the prospect of additional funding, this divorced, Canadian-born mother of three grown up children, isn’t convinced that it is the solution to the current crisis.

The floodgates of desperate youngsters opened, she recalls, in 2010. “I saw my work increase by a mad amount and so did others I work with. Suddenly everything got much more dangerous, much more immediate, much more painful.”

Official figures confirm the picture she paints, with emergency admissions to child psychiatric wards doubling in four years, and those young adults hospitalised for self-harm up by 70 per cent in a decade.

“Something is clearly happening,” she says, “because I am seeing the evidence in the numbers of depressive, anorexic, cutting children who come to see me. And it always has something to do with the computer, the Internet and the smartphone.”

Issues such as cyber-bullying are, of course, nothing new, and schools now all strive to develop robust policies to tackle them, but Lynn Evans’ target is both more precise and more general. She is pointing a finger of accusation at the smartphones – “pocket rockets” as she calls them – which are now routinely in the hands of over 80 per cent of secondary school age children. Their arrival has been, she notes, a key change since 2010.

“It’s a simplistic view, but I think it is the ubiquity of broadband and smartphones that has changed the pace and the power and the drama of mental illness in young people.”

With a smartphone – as opposed to an earlier generation of “brick” mobiles that could only be used to keep in touch with worried parents – youngsters can now, she says, “access the internet without adult supervision in parks, on street, wherever they are, and then they can go anywhere. So there are difficult chat rooms, self-harming websites, anorexia websites, pornography, and a whole invisible world of dark places. In real life, we travel with our children. When they are connected via their smartphone to the web, they usually travel alone”.

She quotes one website that has come up in conversations with youngsters in the consulting room. “I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise, but it is where men masturbate in real time while children as young as 12 watch them. So parents think their children are upstairs in their bedrooms with their friends having popcorn and no alcohol, yet this is the sort of thing they are watching. And as they watch, they are saying, ‘this is what sex is’. It is leaving them really distressed.”

Mums and dads who allow young teenagers to have smartphones – and she wouldn’t say yes until they were 14 – must also take a more active role in policing the use of them, she says, however unpopular it will make them with their offspring.

“I think children should have privacy within their own rooms and in their diaries, and I think they should have the Internet, but I don’t think they should have both, certainly not until they have proved they are completely safe and reliable. So, check their browser history, look at their Facebook, Instagram, and then discuss it with them.

“When they are 15, you don’t, for example, let them go to pub, or stay out in the local park at four in morning, yet they’ll get into much less trouble physically there than they will on their smartphones on the internet. I’m not talking about paedophiles preying on them. I’m talking about anorexia sites and sites where they will be bullied.”

That is where the damage is being done to their mental health, she argues. Harmful, too, is the sheer length of exposure to the virtual world via their smartphones that youngsters have now. Her strong advice to parents is to limit access. “Use it like parents used to use TV with their children. ‘You can watch this but you can’t watch that’, and there’s a watershed. We need that kind of discipline.”

How about just banning it altogether? “I believe that parents who don’t allow the Internet can cause as much damaged as parents who allow too much. Their children are not able to work and play and be with the rest of the children in the playground. It’s has to be about balance, not banning.”

Living so much in a virtual world has other negative consequences, she suggests. It gives young users no time to reflect or learn about the consequences of their actions. “So if you are having a WhatsApp chat with your friends, and it all goes very wrong, you can say to them, ‘I wish you were dead’. Now perfectly nice children find themselves saying, ‘I wish you were dead,’ because they haven’t got time to reflect, and then their words go everywhere. Kindness, compassion, ethics, it’s all out of the window when you are in this instantaneous gossip world with no time to think, and no time to learn about having relationships.”

Parents also need to think about what example they set their children by their own attachment to their smartphones. “We know all about the importance of childhood attachment and good healthy childhood relationships with parents. Yet, if you look in the local park, you see children at a very early age not getting the tender, intense love they used to because their parents are always on their smartphones. Put them down, and be with your kids from day one. They’re not getting what they need from us to build up their core sense of self and that can create the problems I see down the line.”

Julie Lynn Evans is, in one way, a reluctant campaigner. She is keen to point out that this isn’t happening to all children, and that there are other potential causes for the current crisis – “results-driven school programmes”, busy parents and the recession are three she quotes, not to mention “organic” mental health such as schizophrenia.

And, she says, she has enough on her plate, dealing daily with the current crisis in adolescent mental health, without getting drawn into a broader argument about how to tackle its root causes. Indeed, she confesses that two weeks ago she was so exhausted that she even contemplated giving up work altogether.

“I was dealing with a young boy who had just jumped out of a car and run into oncoming traffic. Two psychiatrists and I were tearing our hair out trying to find a safe place to put him. We tried for four hours to find him a hospital bed, and there was nowhere for him no hospital bed available. He ended up going went home and we put in nurses 24 hours a day, but not a lot of people are going to be able to do that. At the end of it, I was so tired I thought I can’t go on”.

What makes her continue, though, in a system that even Normal Lamb has called “broken”, is that what she is witnessing frightens her. And she is speaking out because she believes the problem can be fixed.

She is emphatically not anti-internet, but rather anti- the negative side effects of it on our young. “It is battering our children’s brains. They have no times for the goodies in life – kindness, acceptance, conversation, face-to-face, nature, nurture. They need to find a sense of purpose by connecting with other people, not being on the Internet all the time.”

If parents and schools engage with it openly and together, this can be tackled, she urges. “If we can grab what’s going on by the horns, and do something about it, then I am optimistic. I’m not optimistic, though, if we just say it’s the government ‘s fault and we’ve got to have more money.”

If you are affected by any of the issues discussed in this interview, contact YoungMinds on 0808 802 5544 or Saneline on 08457 678 000


Igo to this boot camp-style class sometimes at a gym near my apartment. It’s one of those classes where a coach stands there and yells at you to do more pushups and squats until you think you’re going to puke. Then you go home and struggle to sit on a toilet for the next three days.

It’s great. I love it. I never miss a week.

Today, as happens many mornings, a couple of people, in between exercises, ran over to the wall to pick up their phones and check… well, I don’t know what the fuck they could have been checking. Email? Instagram? Snapchatting their sweat beads so everyone could see? I don’t know.

The point is they were on their phones.

And the coach got pissed, yelled at them to put their fucking phones away, and we all stood around awkwardly.

This proceeded to happen two or three times in the class, as it does in pretty much every class, and for whatever reason, today I decided to speak my mind to the women glued to her phone while the rest of us were working out:

“Is there really nothing in your life that can’t wait 30 minutes? Or are you curing cancer or something?”

Note to readers: this is a bad way to make friends.

I was pissed. But fuck them. I felt like I was in the right, that I was saying what pretty much everyone else in the room was silently thinking.1

Later that day, once we’d all gone home, while painfully sitting on a toilet seat, I was going over the incident in my head. And I asked myself, “Why does that bother me so much? Why do phones, in general, seem to bug me so much? Why does it bother me when my wife pulls out her phone when we’re walking down the street together? Why do I fervently hate with a passion people who hold up their phones and record half a concert? What’s the deal?”

Am I the screwed up one here?

I know I’m not though. We all have this weird love/hate relationship with our phones these days. Every year, we become more glued to them than ever before. Yet, every year, we seem to resent that we’re glued to them. Why is that?


If you think about it, our attention is the only thing we truly own in our lives. Our possessions can go away. Our bodies can be compromised. Our relationships can fall apart. Even our memories and intellectual capacity fade away.

But the simple ability to choose what to focus on — that will always be ours.

Unfortunately, with today’s technology, our attention is being pulled in more directions than ever before, which makes this optioning of our own attention more difficult — and more important — than ever before.

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport argues that the ability to focus deeply on a single project, idea or task for long periods of time is not only one of the most important skills for succeeding in the information age, but it’s also an ability that appears to be dwindling among the population.

But I would go even further. I would say that our ability to focus and hone our attention on what we need is a core component of living a happy, healthy life. We’ve all had those days or weeks (or months or years) where we’ve felt scatterbrained — out of control of our own reality, constantly sucked down rabbit holes of pointless information and drama comprised of endless clicks and notifications.

To be happy and healthy, we need to feel as though we are in control of ourselves and we are utilizing our abilities and talents effectively.2 To do that, we must be in control of our attention.3

And I think this is why the cell phone thing at the gym pissed me off. Those workouts are fucking hard. They require me to focus and exert not only physical discipline but mental discipline as well. And to stop every 10 minutes because somebody needs to email their boss or text their boyfriend yanks me out of that. And worse, it yanks me out against my will.

It’s attention pollution when somebody else’s inability to focus or control themselves then interferes with the attention and focus of those around them.

And with the explosion in smart devices and internet available pretty much everywhere from Timbuktu to your mother’s ass crack, attention pollution is infiltrating our daily lives more and more without us realizing it.

It’s why we get annoyed at dinner when someone starts texting in front of us. It’s why we get pissed off when someone pulls their phone out in a movie theater. It’s why we become irritated when someone is checking their email instead of watching the ballgame.

Their inability to focus interferes with our (already-fragile) ability to focus. The same way second-hand smoke harms the lungs of people around the smoker, smartphones harm the attention and focus of people around the smartphone user. It hijacks our senses. It forces us to pause our conversations and redouble our thoughts unnecessarily. It causes us to lose our train of thought and forget that important point we were constructing in our head. It erodes at our ability to connect and simply be present with one another, destroying intimacy in the process.

But the smoking comparison doesn’t end there. There’s evidence that suggests that we are doing long-term harm to our memories and attention spans.4 The same way smoking cigarettes fucks over our long-term health in the name of a series of short-term bursts of highs, the dopamine kicks we get from our phones are harming our brain’s ability to function over the long-term, all in the name of getting a bunch of likes on that really cool new photo of our food we just took.

Now, it may sound like I’m overreacting here. Like I had a shitty gym session and am taking it out on hundreds of thousands of readers on the internet.

But I’m serious. I think this is fucking us up more than we realize.

I’ve noticed that as the years go on, it’s becoming harder for me to sit down and write an article like this than it was three or four years ago. And it’s not just that the amount of available distractions have compounded over the years, it’s that my ability to resist those distractions seems to have worn down to the point where I often don’t feel in control of my own attention anymore.

And this kind of freaks me out. It’s not that I resent the woman at the gym who can’t go 10 minutes without checking her messages. I resent that I am becoming that person at the gym who can’t go 10 minutes without checking his messages.

And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one.

I’ve met people the last few years who get incredibly anxious if they can’t check their phone in social situations. They carry their phones into conversations the way some people carry dogs on airplanes. It’s a constant outlet if the necessity to interface with another person’s thoughts and feelings ever becomes too intense.

I’ve started to notice people who feel like they need to always be checking email or their messages to feel as though they’re being a good, productive employee. Doesn’t matter if it’s their kid’s violin recital, or in the car at stop lights, or in bed at midnight on a Saturday. They feel like they have to always be caught up on every piece of information that is flung their way, otherwise they’re somehow failing.

I’ve noticed friends who can no longer sit through entire movies (or even episodes of a TV show) without pulling out their phones multiple times in the middle of it. People who can’t make it through a meal without putting the phone next to their plate.

It’s happening everywhere, and it’s therefore becoming the social norm. The eroded attention is becoming the normal, socially acceptable attention, and we are all paying for it.


I have a dream, friends. I have a dream of a world where people can sit through long, dull conversations, without feeling the need to douse themselves with instant-gratification delivered through glowing plastic screens.

I have a dream of a world where people are cognizant of not only their own limited attention, but the precious attention of others and some numb-nuts won’t start texting in the movie theatre, totally killing the mood of a dramatic scene.

I have a dream where our devices will be comfortably allotted as the occasional supplement to our lives, and not used as a poor replacement for them. Where people will recognize that the constant and instantaneous delivery of information has subtle costs associated with it, as well as its more obvious benefits.

I have a dream of a world where people become aware of their own attention as an important resource, something to be cultivated and renewed, to be built and cherished, the same way they take care of their bodies or their education. And this new cultivation of their own attention will oddly set them free. Not just free from the screens, but free from their own unconscious impulses.

I have a dream where that respect for attention would extend to the world around them, to their friends and family and the acknowledgment that the inability to focus is not only harmful to oneself, but harmful to one’s relationships and ability to hold and maintain intimacy with someone.

I have a dream that these women won’t check their fucking phones when I’m doing burpee #327 next Wednesday. For God’s sake, if you’re going to the gym, go to the fucking gym.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last (from our smartphones)!”

OK, maybe I plagiarized that last paragraph, but next time you’re taking a selfie at dinner, ask yourself, what would Dr. King have wanted?


Voice Analysis Tech Could Diagnose Disease

Researchers enlist smartphones and machine learning to find vocal patterns that might signal post-traumatic stress disorder or even heart disease.

In the near future, smartphone apps and wearables could help diagnose disease with short voice samples.

Charles Marmar has been a psychiatrist for 40 years, but when a combat veteran steps into his office for an evaluation, he still can’t diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder with 100 percent accuracy.

“You would think that if a war fighter came into my office I’d be able to decide if they have PTSD or not. But what if they’re ashamed to tell me about their problems or they don’t want to lose their high-security clearance, or I ask them about their disturbing dreams and they say they’re sleeping well?” says Marmar.

Marmar, who is chairman of the department of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, is hoping to find answers in their speech.

Voice samples are a rich source of information about a person’s health, and researchers think subtle vocal cues may indicate underlying medical conditions or gauge disease risk. In a few years it may be possible to monitor a person’s health remotely—using smartphones and other wearables—by recording short speech samples and analyzing them for disease biomarkers.

For psychiatric disorders like PTSD, there are no blood tests, and people are often embarrassed to talk about their mental health, so these conditions frequently go underdiagnosed. That’s where vocal tests could be useful.

As part of a five-year study, Marmar is collecting voice samples from veterans and analyzing vocal cues like tone, pitch, rhythm, rate, and volume for signs of invisible injuries like PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and depression. Using machine learning to mine features in the voice, algorithms pick out vocal patterns in people with these conditions and compare them with voice samples from healthy people.

For example, people with mental or cognitive problems may elongate certain sounds, or struggle with pronouncing phrases that require complex facial muscle movements.

Collaborating with researchers at SRI International, a nonprofit research institute in northern California, Marmar has been able to pick out a set of 30 vocal characteristics that seem to be associated with PTSD and TBI from 40,000 total features they’ve extracted from the voices of veterans and control subjects.

In early results presented in 2015, a voice test developed by Marmar and his team was 77 percent accurate at distinguishing between PTSD patients and healthy volunteers in a study of 39 men. More voice recordings have been collected since that study, and Marmar and his colleagues are close to identifying speech patterns that can distinguish between PTSD and TBI.

“Medical and psychiatric diagnosis will be more accurate when we have access to large amounts of biological and psychological data, including speech features,” Marmar says. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any speech tests to diagnose disease.

Beyond mental health, the Mayo Clinic is pursuing vocal biomarkers to improve remote health monitoring for heart disease. It’s teaming up with Israeli company Beyond Verbal to test the voices of patients with coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease. They reason that chest pain caused by hardening of the arteries may affect voice production.

In an initial study, the Mayo Clinic enrolled 150 patients and asked them to produce three short voice recordings using an app developed by Beyond Verbal. Researchers analyzed the voices using machine learning and identified 13 different vocal features associated with patients at risk of coronary artery disease.

One characteristic, related to the frequency of the voice, was associated with a 19-fold increase in the likelihood of coronary artery disease. Amir Lerman, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, says this vocal trait isn’t discernable to the human ear and can only be picked up using the app’s software.

“What we found out is that specific segments of the voice can be predictive of the amount or degree of the blockages found by the angiography,” Lerman says.

Lerman says a vocal test app on a smartphone could be used as a low-cost, predictive screening tool to identify patients most at risk of heart disease, as well as to remotely monitor patients after cardiac surgery. For example, changes in the voice could indicate whether patients have stopped taking their medication.

Next Mayo plans to conduct a similar study in China to determine if the voice biomarkers identified in the initial study are the same in a different language.

Jim Harper, CEO of Sonde Health in Boston, sees value in using voice tests to monitor new mothers for postpartum depression, which is widely believed to be underdiagnosed, and older people with dementia, Parkinson’s, and other diseases of aging. His company is working with hospitals and insurance companies to set up pilot studies of its AI platform, which detects acoustic changes in the voice to screen for mental health conditions.

“We’re trying to make this ubiquitous and universal by engineering a technology that allows our software to operate on mobile phones and a range of other voice-enabled devices,” Harper says.

One major problem researchers are working on is whether these different vocal characteristics can be faked by patients. If so, the tests might not be very reliable.

The technology also raises privacy and security concerns. Not all patients will want to give voice samples that contain personal information or let apps have access to their phone calls. Researchers insist that their algorithms are capturing patterns in the voice, not logging what you say.

Millions of Smartphones Could Be Vulnerable to Hacking via Sound Waves

Scientists have found a new vulnerability in a common tech component, uncovering a security flaw that could expose potentially millions of smartphones, fitness wearables, and even cars to hacking.

By using sound waves, researchers have figured out how to trick accelerometers – the tiny sensors in gadgets that detect movement – into registering a fake motion signal, which hackers could exploit to take control of our devices.


“It’s like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words,” computer scientist Kevin Fu from the University of Michigan told The New York Times.

“You can think of it as a musical virus.”

The sensors that Fu’s team investigated are called capacitive MEMS accelerometers, which register the rate of change in an object’s speed in three dimensions.

It’s these sensors that can tell which way you’re holding or tilting your smartphone or tablet, and count the steps you take using an activity tracker.

But they’re not just used in consumer gadgets – they’re also embedded in the circuits of things like medical devices, vehicles, and even satellites – and we’re becoming more reliant on them all the time.

“Thousands of everyday devices already contain tiny MEMS accelerometers,” Fu explains in a press release.

“Tomorrow’s devices will aggressively rely on sensors to make automated decisions with kinetic consequences.”

But accelerometers have an Achilles heel: sound. By precisely tuning acoustic tones to the right frequency, Fu’s team was able to deceive 15 out of 20 different models of accelerometers from five different manufacturers, and control output from the devices in 65 percent of cases.

Accelerometers may enable some high-tech functionalities, but the principle is fundamentally simple – using a mass suspended on springs to detect changes in speed or direction. But those measurements can effectively be forged if you use the right sonic frequency to fool the tech.

“The fundamental physics of the hardware allowed us to trick sensors into delivering a false reality to the microprocessor,” Fu explains.

Once they figured out what the frequencies were to manipulate the sensors, they were able to trick a Fitbit into counting thousands of steps that were never taken; pilot a toy car by taking control of a smartphone app; and even use a music file to make a Samsung Galaxy S5 crudely write out a word (“Walnut”) in a graph of its accelerometer readings.

The tech used to hijack these devices wasn’t high-end audio gear either. In one case, the researchers used a US$5 external speaker; in another, a smartphone played a sound file on its own internal speaker and effectively hacked itself.

While all these proofs-of-concept were fairly harmless demonstrations of the technique, the researchers warn that it could easily be used for malicious and potentially very dangerous purposes.

“If a phone app used the accelerometer to start your car when you physically shake your phone, then you could intentionally spoof the accelerometer’s output data to make the phone app think the phone is being shaken,” one of the team, Timothy Trippel, told Gizmodo.

“The phone app would then send the car a signal to start.”

The research is due to be presented at the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy in Paris in April, and while the study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, the findings are being treated seriously.

As John Markoff at The New York Times reports, the US Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue a security alert in relation to the specific sensors documented in the paper.

The manufacturers involved were separately forewarned of the vulnerability before the researchers went public with their findings this week.

Now that we know about the security flaw, hopefully researchers and technology companies will be able to work together and find a means of patching up the weak spot.

As technological devices get ever more powerful and independent, it’s crucial that they can’t be puppeteered by something as rudimentary as sound waves overriding their fundamental components.

“Humans have sensors, like eyes, ears, and a nose,” says Trippel.

“We trust our senses and we use them to make decisions. If autonomous systems can’t trust their senses, then the security and reliability of those systems will fail.”

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Rogue Cosmic Rays From Outer Space Are Causing Havoc With Our Smartphones

And it’s getting worse.

Under Earth’s protective magnetic field, we don’t usually need to worry too much about the health effects of cosmic radiation – although it’s something that’s known to impact astronauts in space, and even passengers travelling in airplanes.

But the same can’t be said for our technological systems – fierce solar storms can wreak havoc on Earth’s communication networks, and new research shows that even ordinary levels of cosmic radiation can have a disruptive effect on our personal devices.

“This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public,” says electrical engineer Bharat Bhuva from Vanderbilt University.

To see just how big the problem is, Bhuva and his team took 16-nanometre computer chips – the kind used in many of today’s consumer PCs – and exposed them to a neutron beam, in an attempt to replicate what happens when cosmic radiation penetrates our atmosphere.

When cosmic rays collide with Earth’s magnetic field, they create cascades of secondary particles – including energetic neutrons, muons, and pions.

Millions of these particles strike our bodies every second, and while they aren’t thought to have any effect on our health, they can interfere with the operation of microelectronic circuitry.

In particular, when they interact with integrated circuits, they can actually alter or ‘flip’ individual bits of data stored in memory – a phenomenon that’s called a single-event upset (SEU).

Most of the time, such an event probably wouldn’t create much of a problem. An app running on your smartphone or PC might glitch somehow, making a miscalculation, but it’s probably not something you’ll notice for more than a moment.

But in some cases, SEUs could have drastic and potentially far-reaching consequences.

In 2003, a ‘bit flip’ in a Belgian electronic voting machine gave one candidate in the election an extra 4,096 votes, before the mistake was caught.

Even more worrying – the avionics system of a Qantas passenger jetmalfunctioned due to a suspected SEU in 2008, forcing the aircraft into an abrupt dive that injured about a third of the passengers on board.

Bhuva’s research was sponsored by a number of microelectronics companies, and the results are proprietary – meaning they’re unlikely to be published any time soon.

But in a presentation of key trends in the findings at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston last Friday, he explained that as technology advances and transistors get ever smaller, the likelihood of SEUs due to cosmic rays is increasing.

“[S]emiconductor manufacturers are very concerned about this problem because it is getting more serious as the size of the transistors in computer chips shrink and the power and capacity of our digital systems increase,” says Bhuva.

“In addition, microelectronic circuits are everywhere and our society is becoming increasingly dependent on them.”

Ultimately, smaller transistors are more vulnerable to energetic particles, because they require less electrical charge to represent a logical bit – which means they flip between binary states (from 0 to 1, or vice versa) more easily when they’re struck by cosmic rays.

On the other hand, today’s transistors are smaller than ever, so they’re actually less likely to be hit by flying energy particles. Contemporary transistors are also assembled in 3D designs, that help to make them less individually susceptible to SEUs.

But since today’s computer chips include significantly higher numbers of these smaller transistors overall, at the device level, the risk of an SEU occurring is greater than ever, Bhuva says.

So, what’s the solution? Unfortunately, shielding chips from energy particles isn’t an option, as it would take more than 3 metres (10 feet) of concrete to prevent transistors from being struck. 
According to Bhuva, the answer is for device manufacturers to design systems that include three processors in place of one. In rare cases where two chips tell you one thing, and the third tells you another, majority rules – as the errant third result would likely be due to an SEU.

Plugging that hole will ultimately mean our devices run smoother than ever – but in the meantime, there’s no need to lose any sleep over your smartphone being hit by a rogue particle strike.

“This is a major problem for industry and engineers,” Bhuva says, “but it isn’t something that members of the general public need to worry much about.”

Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones

A man missing a sighting of a humpback whale because he is looking at his mobile phone
Are you so distracted by your smartphone that you struggle to concentrate and miss out on things?

The average human’s attention span is… oh look, a bird!

According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.

The study, by technology giant Microsoft, did however find that the ability of humans to multitask has improved.

It read: “Canadians [who were tested] with more digital lifestyles (those who consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.

A stop watch
Eight seconds: the average attention span of humans

“While digital lifestyles decrease sustained attention overall, it’s only true in the long-term. Early adopters and heavy social media users front load their attention and have more intermittent bursts of high attention.

“They’re better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory.”

The research follows a study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information and the National Library of Medicine in the US that found 79 per cent of respondents regularly “dual screen” by using portable devices while watching TV.

Bruce Morton, a researcher with the University of Western Ontario’s Brain and Mind Institute, suggested it is the result of humans craving information.

“When we first invented the car, it was so novel,” he said.

“The thought of having an entertainment device in the car was ridiculous because the car itself was the entertainment.

“After a while, travelling for eight hours at a time, you’d had enough of it. The brain is bored. You put radios in the car and video displays.

“Why? Because after the first 10 minutes of the drive I’ve had enough already. I understand this.

“Just because we may be allocating our attention differently as a function of the technologies we may be using, it doesn’t mean that the way our attention actually can function has changed.”

Are you addicted to your mobile phone?

If you answered yes to 5 or fewer, you do not have a problem

6-10: try to cut back on your usage

10-15: you have a bit of a problem

16-20: your addiction to your phone is out of control

13 apps that can make you smarter

Despite the constant hand-wringing that smartphones will lead to the downfall of society, there’s mounting evidence that your phone habit may not be so bad after all.

woman on smartphone texting

In fact, there are ways your phone might actually be good for you.

We’ve compiled a list of apps to boost your brainpower, hone your memory, and even improve your emotional intelligence.

The science of how exactly our brains work – and how much we can train them – is constantly evolving, but one thing’s for sure: there’s no better way to get smarter while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Whether you use an iPhone or an Android phone, there’s something here for you..

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If you keep your smartphones in your trousers or bras, this is what can happen to you!

The cellphone addiction is very common in the present generation. The smartphones have not just replaced the ways in which people get entertained; they have also replaced many other routine habits of the common people. Today, a smartphone actually defines the lifestyle of a person. A person uses the phone to make calls, listen to music, do research and even to read. In short, it has become an indispensable part of the life of people today. That is the reason why many of us tend to keep the cellphone in our bras, shirt pockets or trousers while travelling or sleeping. The risks of this habit are not known to the common people and that is why they carelessly store the cellphone in such places. There are many risks in storing the cellphone in such places. Here we have listed out a few of the major risks that you need to take into account.

Cell phone radiations may cause depression!

A recent study has revealed that there is a direct connection between sleep disturbances, depression and the increased use of mobile phones. The study was conducted to find out the impact of mobile phones on young adults. Youngsters who fall in the age group of 20 to 24 years were considered for this study. Study was conducted based on many variables that included the frequency of use of mobile phones.A one year followup revealed that high use of mobile phones revealed sleep disturbances as well as signs of depression in men. In women, it just revealed early signs of depression.

Cell phone radiations may cause depression!

Why is Mobile Phone Radiation Linked with Depression?

A recent study conducted by the British Newspaper ‘The Independent’ on 35 Men and 35 Women has revealed that the use of mobile phone just before sleeping reduces the deep sleep stage and also causes confusion, insomnia and sleep related health problems. It is already known to us that sleep greatly defines the mental health of a person and many of the mental health problems are associated with improper sleeping habits. This new revelation shows that excessive use of mobile phone can greatly hamper the mental health of an individual.

Why is Mobile Phone Radiation Linked with Depression?

Cellphone in Trouser Pockets May hamper the reproductive health of Men!

Men need to be extremely careful because their cellphones or smartphones addiction may have serious implications on their health and personal life. There have been studies that reveal that the mobile phone radiation can have an adverse effect on the health of the reproductive organs even when you are not actually making a call. It is also revealed that carrying your smartphone in your trouser pocket may even result in a lowered sperm count.

Cellphone in Trouser Pockets May hamper the reproductive health of Men!

Greater Chances of Breast Cancer Among Women Who Keep Their Smartphones in Their Bras

In a recent study, a woman who had no other signs or chances of developing breast cancer had approached the doctor and found that she had breast cancer. The only possibility was surely the link of smartphone radiations and breast cancer. It is true that the radiations that come from mobile phones are used by doctors to carryout various complicated surgical procedures but that is because these radiations can breakthrough the protective covering of major organs like the brain. That itself is a warning sign that shows us that we should maintain a safe distance from these dangerous radiations.

Greater Chances of Breast Cancer Among Women Who Keep Their Smartphones in Their Bras

Effect of Cellphone Radiations On Unborn Foetus

There are many risks of mobile phone radiations and only few of these have been mentioned here. The worst of all is the fact that these radiations are even known to harm unborn foetuses. This means that if a mother excessively uses smartphone or mobile phone, the unborn child will also have to pay for it.

The countless negative effects of mobile phones and smartphones shows that we need to maintain a safe distance from these devices if we wish to stay healthy and happy. This could be a word of caution for the newer generation who are born with mobile phones in their hands.

Effect of Cellphone Radiations On Unborn Foetus