Why you shouldn’t take your phone to the beach

SELFIE-obsessed Aussies should leave their phones at home and prioritise sunscreen and hats, a health expert has warned.

It comes as new research from comparison website finder.com.au shows 14 per cent of Australians prioritise taking their smartphone to the beach above sun protection, water and even a towel.

That equates to almost 1.2 million Australians placing their device as the top beach essential, worryingly ahead of sun safety.

The biggest culprits are Generation Z - those under 22 years of age - clearly more worried about Instagram and Snapchat than beach necessities with more than a third (36 per cent) packing their smartphone above all else.

In fact, when asked about which items they prioritise for the beach, Gen Z said on average, "sunscreen, smartphone and towel" - in that order.

"Australia has become a smartphone-obsessed culture," Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia told our sister paper news.com.au.

"Around 2.7 million Australians get sunburnt on summer weekends and a principle reason for that is a failure to prepare for being out in the sun.

"People report being accidentally burnt on their head, neck and shoulders because people are not taking the preparatory steps that they need to when UV is high."

She also said young people might be putting more than their health at risk if they prioritise their phones.

"Interestingly, smartphones don't fare too well in 47-degree heat either - so you might want to take an Esky to put your smartphone in," she added.

Alex Kidman, tech expert from finder.com.au, also warned against taking smartphones to the beach - adding they are water resistant, but not waterproof.

"Many don't realise that phones' water resistance is tested in a lab. That means it's tested with pure water - not sea or chlorinated pool water," she said.

"The beach really isn't an ideal place for smartphones: they can easily overheat in the sun, and fine sand and phones don't always get along well. In extreme cases, your smartphone may switch off due to overheating.

"While it may be fun to take some selfies in the water or on the sand, it's definitely not worth the risk of damaging your phone."

Aranda said Cancer Council research shows that, even when Australians take sunscreen to the beach, 85 per cent of them don't know how to apply properly. For example, they may not be applying enough or reapplying regularly.

Aranda also added that two-thirds of Australians will suffer from skin cancer at some point in their lives - with melanomas claiming 200 Aussie lives a year.

Professor Sanchia Aranda says two-thirds of Aussies will experience skin cancer. Source: iStock.
Professor Sanchia Aranda says two-thirds of Aussies will experience skin cancer. Source: iStock.


Despite the finder.com.au statistics showing younger Australians are more likely to prioritise their phones over sun protection, Aranda said the awareness around skin cancer is on the rise.

"Last year, we saw the first ever decline in age-standardised rate for melanoma in the under 40s - they would have been the first to be influenced by the Slip, Slop, Slap campaign which started in the 1970s.

"We have more people using sunscreen than ever before and we've got this new 'sun-smart' generation of kids coming through school. But that tends to pull off a bit in the late teens to early adulthood - their skin is still very susceptible to UV at that point."

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