Amy Orben: ‘To talk about smartphones affecting the brain is a slippery slope’

Psychologist Amy Orben, a research fellow at Emmanuel College and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge, talks with The Observer about the widespread fear that smartphones are harmful to our wellbeing – and the difficulty of proving it.

In recent years there has been a great deal of speculation about the possible harmful effects of digital technology, particularly smartphones, on mental health, the ability to concentrate, and sleep patterns. Is there any sound evidence to support these concerns?
In relation to how much societal debate and coverage these questions get, there is very little evidence for these concerns, and even less high-quality, robust and transparent evidence. I think that lack of high-quality evidence makes the question really difficult to answer.