Column: Mobiles are weapons of mass distraction

We are a nation obsessed with our mobile phones but nowadays we are less likely to be talking on them than we are to be ordering shopping or '˜facetiming' friends.

Life on Tapp with Blaise Tapp SUS-160516-112125001
Life on Tapp with Blaise Tapp SUS-160516-112125001

In a nation of some 65 million people there are a staggering 83 million phones in circulation - we are crazy for those smartphones.

In little more than a quarter of a century the humble phone has gone from being the preserve of brace-wearing stockbrokers and their Deirdre Barlow-perm wearing wives to an essential part of life for people from all walks of life. The most recent stats show that 50 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds own a smartphone and there is no sign of that figure decreasing any time soon.

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This isn’t just a thing that people in rich, developed countries do - it is truly a worldwide phenomenon - one which many cannot get their heads around. One of the common criticisms of refugees who come to this continent in search of safe shelter is that they dare to own a smartphone, like it is some sort of proof that things cannot be that bad at home if they own the latest Samsung.

These bone-headed critics miss the point: these dinky devices are no longer a luxury item but something that everybody should have, should they so want. As long as they are old enough.

There is a hardcore which think children should not be able to own a phone until they are old enough to buy a lottery ticket or go to work. The latest voice in this argument belongs to Steve Hilton, the man credited with turning David Cameron from an unknown, posh Tory Boy into a hoodie hugging, husky loving statesman.

Hilton flew in last week from his new life in California and went on a whistlestop tour of broadcast studios and newsrooms to tell us where we are all going wrong. But he was absolutely right about kids not having phones.

Looking back on my teenage years now, I am impressed by the fact that I made it to adulthood such was my propensity for disaster and destruction and the last thing the 14-year-old me would have needed was an extra distraction, and that is precisely what phones are.

In the wrong hands (I include myself in this) a smartphone is a time thief and the ultimate distraction, not to mention that it can be the biggest conversation killer known to mankind. On the rare occasion Mrs Tapp and I venture out to places which don’t do nuggets, I am placed on strict no phone curfew unless it is an emergency as one needs to concentrate when you are being rebuked for your latest faux pas or misdemeanour.

But look around any restaurant, pub or cafe and you will see countless blank faced souls staring into the dimly lit abyss while ignoring their companion. It is a depressing sight.

You would have thought that being a dad to kids aged six years and nine months that this would not be an issue but stopping my eldest from spiriting a phone away to play the latest download is a constant battle while the baby is more impressed by the shiny little box in daddy’s pocket than he is his Fisher Price toys.

The fact that mobile phones are absolutely no use when you jumping in a puddle or shining up next door’s tree should mean they are unnecessary for anyone under the age of 16.