teenage cell phone addiction

Is Your Teen A Smartphone Addict?

Smartphone Addict

How long could you go without checking your Smartphone? How about your teen?

On any given day you will notice people so engrossed with their phones that they are missing the world around them. If you have teens, chances are you witness this phenomena on a daily basis. There might be times that leave you questioning if your teen is addicted to her Smartphone.

Alcoholism and drug addictions are often the first images to spring to mind when people think about addiction- not Smartphones. However, people are easily addicted to a variety of stimulants that go beyond illegal substances. Shedding light on teen Smartphone addictions will help address this serious issue facing our society.

What Is Smartphone Addiction?

Recently, there has been a lot of research regarding electronics and the impact they have on our brain activity. A lot of people view Smartphone addiction as something to joke about, but it is a problem that many people suffer from. Scientists also claim there may be a genetic variation that enables some people to be prone to these types of addictions.

Scientifically, Smartphone addiction is known as nomophobia. It essentially boils down to the fear of being without your phone. Smartphone addiction is often fueled by “Internet Use Disorder” or “IUD”. The American Psychiatric Association claim that a person suffering from “IUD will experience ‘preoccupation’ with the internet” and suffer from withdrawal if the Internet is removed. Smartphones allow continuous mobile access to the Internet, which leads to cementing Internet addiction in people.

People with IUD have measurable changes in their brains. The connections between the cells and regions that “control attention, executive control, and emotion processing” are impacted. These changes mirror what happens in the brain connections of people who are addicted to chemical substances like cocaine.

Other studies have measured changes in how “the brain’s dopamine system operates”. Dopamine is a product of our body that is responsible for “allowing us to experience pleasure and reward”. Researchers are starting to notice a correlation between people who suffer from Internet disorders. The addicts may have less dopamine receptors in parts of their brain or their dopamine functions might be compromised.

Smartphone Addict

Adults and teens alike enjoy their cell phones, creating an epidemic of distracted friends and families. Teens rely on their devices for a majority of their communications and updates from friends. This generation has never known a world without a cell phone.

They embrace their phones to check weather forecasts, news, bank accounts, concert schedules, homework assignments, and more by using social media or Internet apps with their Smartphones. Your teen may spend countless hours texting or scrolling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your teen is a Smartphone addict.

According to the Pew’s Internet Research Project over 90% of Americans own a cell phone with a whopping 58% owning Smartphones. If those numbers aren’t startling, consider that the Pew research shows:

  • “67% of cell owners check their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice the phone ringing or vibrating.”  
  • “44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.”
  • “29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as ‘something they can’t imagine living without’.”

“Cell-phones have become inextricably woven into our daily lives — an almost invisible driver of modern life,” James Roberts, a professor at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, stated about his study of 164 college students and their cell phone relationships.

He went on to say, “It is incumbent upon researchers to identify the all-important ‘tipping point’ where cell-phone use crosses the line from a helpful tool to one that enslaves both users and society alike.”

Warning Signs Your Teen Has A Problem

“Computer technologies can be addictive, because they’re “psychoactive.” That is, they alter mood and often trigger enjoyable feelings,” noted David Greenfield, psychologist and author of Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyber Freaks, and Those Who Love Them.

Smartphones offer the capabilities to fuel enjoyable feelings by rewarding us with constant updates anytime or anyplace. If a teen is truly suffering from Smartphone addiction, similar to other addictions, they will begin to build up tolerances to the fast paced texts and apps on their Smartphones.

Anxiety, restless nights, and focusing on getting the next “fix” are common symptoms of addiction. An addicted teen will crave more Smartphone interactions to achieve the same thrill or “high”. A few behaviors can often signal when a teen’s Smartphone fascination has bridged from recreational use to addicted status.

Listed below are warning signs to watch for if you suspect your teen is a Smartphone addict:

  • uncomfortable withdrawal when they are not allowed to use their Smartphone
  • weight loss
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • feelings of “phantom vibrations”
  • isolation from friends and family

Smartphone Addict

In our digital age, it is almost impossible to avoid using the Internet or apps on a Smartphone. Many people compare Smartphone addiction to food addiction, because people need to eat food to survive and many people need technology to function in the modern world. Many classrooms, jobs, utility companies, and social groups rely on technology and Internet access. Technology surrounds us.

It is hard to break the cycle of addiction, when you need the stimulant to survive. If your teen exhibits atypical behaviors and warning signs that they are a Smartphone addict, you will need to explore solutions to help loosen technology’s grip on your teen.

Many recovering addicts and professionals will admit that the first step in dealing with a problem is to admit you are addicted. Now that a problem has been defined, you can seek ways to manage the addiction. Find techniques that can help reduce a teen’s vulnerability to the rapid onslaught for the hyper connectivity Smartphones offer.

Here are a few suggestions to help your teen Smartphone addict:

  • Create “no phone” zones. Deposit phones by the door or charging station to limit phone use while in the home. You may consider allowing phones in common areas, but forbid phones in bedrooms, bathrooms, or other private areas.
  • Reclaim family dinners. Encourage everyone to silence their phones during meal times. Talk with each other and enjoy the family camaraderie over dinner. Small breaks from cell phones can help curb addictions.
  • Designate certain periods of the day to access social media or text. If your teen is a Smartphone addict, he may struggle limiting his usage. Enforce a house rule that allows access during certain times. An example is allowing your teen to use his Smartphone during the hours of 4-7 or shutting down at 9 every night.
  • Ban phones while driving or walking. Safety first.
  • Monitor a teen’s cell phone activity.  Be upfront and tell your teen that you will be monitoring his usage and holding him accountable for his time online.
  • Seek out Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Addictions are hard to beat, especially when the stimulant surrounds a person on a daily basis. Professional counselors and therapists can support addicts overcome temptations without creating a family tension.

Addictions Are No Laughing Matter

The next time a ringtone alerts you to an incoming message, consider the amount of time you spend on your phone everyday. You are modeling behavior that your teen will duplicate or notice. Smartphone addictions may appear trivial and superficial, but a teen Smartphone addict can suffer serious consequences if the addiction is not addressed.

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