Mar 4, 2015 · 1 minute

Smartphones should come with health warnings, according to a study from the University of Derby, which examined the relationships consumers form with their pocket computers.

The study was informed by 256 self-selected smartphone users who responded to an online survey. That is an admittedly small sample from which conclusions can be drawn. But it seems to do little besides confirm what some have already suspected: people can be addicted to their smartphones, and the devices can encourage narcissistic behaviors.

According to the study, 13 percent of respondents were addicted to their smartphones, which was linked to higher narcissism scores and neuroticism levels. It later adds:

Three themes of social relations, smartphone dependence and self-serving personalities emerged from the qualitative data. Interpretation of qualitative data supports addiction specificity of the smartphone. It is suggested smartphones encourage narcissism, even in non-narcissistic users.
So what does this mean for consumers? According to Dr. Zaheer Hussain, adding warning labels to smartphones and the apps that run on them might help. As he told the Guardian:
'People need to know the potential addictive properties of new technologies,' he said. 'It [the warning] could be before they purchase them or before they download an app. If you’re downloading a game such as Candy Crush or Flappy Bird there could be a warning saying that you could end up playing this for hours and you have other responsibilities [that could be neglected].'
This is not as far off a suggestion as it might seem on the surface. Warning labels are on everything from cigarettes (did you know they're bad for you?) to children's toys (don't let little Mikey swallow this Lego brick). Might as well stick 'em on a phone's packaging, too, just to confirm what most already suspect. Humans are vulnerable creatures and the world of material things is out to get us.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]