How does smartphone addiction effect teen health?
We often joke our children are inseparable from their cell phones, but smartphone addiction has become a serious issue facing our teens. When we think of “addictions,” we often assume it’s something bad or illegal, like alcoholism or drug abuse, but the fact is people can become addicted to a wide array of things, including things that might not seem so harmful.
After all, we’ve reached the point where the majority of people in the world own a mobile phone, and don’t we all carry them around wherever we go? When does simply “owning a smartphone” tip over into true smartphone addiction?
Smartphone Addiction And Teen Health
It’s easy to envision addicts hiding in seedy alleys—not sitting at our dinner table scrolling through Twitter or Pinterest. A study from 2012 found that 66 percent of people admit to feeling panicked when they were without their phones. Scientists have endeared this addiction with the moniker “nomophobia”. It is a mash up of the words “no more phone” and phobia, which stands for people, teens included, experiencing fears or stress when they have no access to their phones.
This addiction to smartphones is often fueled by “Internet Use Disorder”. The American Psychiatric Association defines this condition as a preoccupation with the Internet and the person suffers withdrawal symptoms when it is removed. It has all the earmarks of a traditional addiction which includes requiring more and more exposure to get the same euphoric feelings and many teens use this addiction as a coping mechanism to alleviate depression.
4 Ways Smartphone Addiction Can Harm A Child’s Health
Everyday we witness our sons and daughters FaceTiming, Snapchatting, or sharing Instagrams during random moments with their friends. We all know how smartphones and social media has changed the way our teens communicate, but recent evidence shows that smartphone addiction can affect our teen’s health in ways we never imagined.
Listed below are legitimate health concerns a teen smartphone addict faces:
1. Brain Function And Chemical Changes
Advances in technology have allowed researchers to measure physical and chemical changes in an addict’s brain. Regardless of the addiction, even if it is just a smartphone, the regions that “control attention, executive control, and emotion processing” are impacted. These studies have discovered physical changes also occur in the dopamine system.
Dopamine is a chemical created by our bodies that allow us to feel pleasure and reward. Scientists noticed smaller amounts of dopamine receptors in brains of people who exhibited smartphone and Internet addiction.
This explains how some teens need an increase in certain activities, like receiving new notifications on his or her cell phone, to feel satisfied or happy. Likewise, this can also work in reverse and result in depression when they don’t get notifications or lose access to their smartphone.
2. The Link Between Cell Phones And Radiation
There has been a long held discussion about cell phones and exposure to radiation. Recently, researchers discovered that people who use cell phones for a mere half an hour every day for ten years double their risk for brain cancer. If that isn’t enough to warrant a little caution while using cell phones, the same study found that people who began using cell phones in their teen years are four to five more times likely to come down with the disease. Take extra precautions by using headsets, speakers, or following the recommended distance guidelines that come with your device.
3. Mobility Problems Due To Smartphone Use
We often associate bad backs or arthritis with older people or an old sports injury. Unfortunately, there has been an increase with back and spine problems associated with the posture we use while texting.
“Text claw” (a new term to describe the soreness in our wrists and fingers from texting) is on the rise and there is an increase in a condition known as “cell phone elbow” (cubital tunnel syndrome that is the second most common nerve compression problem). These are very real and physical ailments that can be heightened with a smartphone addiction.
4. The Effect Of Smartphones On Sleep
We all know how important sleep is for the human body, but growing children especially benefit from a good night’s rest. While teens might fight us on this issue, science recommends that teens get between eight and ten hours of sleep every night. Surprisingly, only 15 percent of teens meet this requirement!
Our children’s technology and smartphones are a leading factor in this lack of sleep. The glow of the screen can interrupt our natural biorhythms which cause insomnia and restless sleep. Smartphones also interrupt sleep with the constant connectivity and messaging that occurs at all hours of the night. It’s hard for a teen to get a good night’s sleep if they are up reading messages every two or three hours.
Like all addictions, awareness is the first step in fixing the problem. Smartphone addiction reaches far beyond the amount of data a teen consumes, it has the potential to affect a child’s future health. Keep following Teenology for more information about our children’s health and technology.