Quite simply they are designed to be addictive. There are literally millions of different games available. Video game designers have to make their game popular. Popularity occurs when players return to play on a regular basis. Designers achieve this by making their game challenging enough that very few people get to the finish. They also ensuring that there are incentives or wins along the way. We call this intermittent reinforcement. It fires up the pleasure areas of our brains and is a great way to ensure a person wants to return. This is the same type of reinforcement that makes gambling so addictive.
There has been a big push in recent years to increase the availability of computers and tablets in schools. Now many primary schools in Australia are introducing ‘bring your own device’ policies for younger and younger kids.
At the beach recently I noticed a group of teenagers all sitting together. Every one of them was hunched over a mobile phone. I found it sad that they were not actually enjoying a beautiful day at the beach or interacting with their friends. It made me wonder why they were even there? But then I looked around one of Sydney’s most beautiful beaches. Over half of the people I could see were looking at their phones!
There is now a phenomenon called 'Phantom Vibration Syndrome'. It occurs when someone regularly has their phone set to vibrate. They feel phantom vibrations on their leg - even when their phone is not present. Up to 90% of US University students experience these phantom vibrations.
Many private schools in NSW are now banning smartphones during school hours and all the feedback I have heard is extremely positive. Schools should be about learning and anything that hinders learning should be restricted.