It's a theory that has been floating around for years: Millennials are addicted to their phones. It doesn't take much to notice that people are often on their phones to watch something, check in on work, or listen to music.
Though we may see our phone use as something we have control over, plenty of experts have come forward with studies suggesting that we can just as easily become addicted to them.
In December 2017, EurekAlert spoke with Sarah Domoff, lead author of a study focusing on children's use of electronics. "Typically, researchers and clinicians quantify or consider the amount of screen time as of paramount importance in determining what is normal or not normal or healthy or unhealthy," Domoff said. "Our study has demonstrated that there is more to it than a number of hours. What matters most is whether screen use causes problems in other areas of life or has become an all-consuming activity."
She added that if a child's use of technology interferes with their social lives or daily activities that would be a cause for concern. Additionally, if children seem to get upset when their devices are taken from them, that's another cause for concern.
Domoff isn't the only one who believes that technology use is becoming a problem.
In Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - and How to Break the Trance, a novel by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, he goes into detail about how overusing technology has the potential to neurologically damage children's brains.
He discussed the issue further in an interview with VICE. When asked if screen addiction can be compared to substance addiction, Kardaras said, "My whole thesis is that we should let the child's brain fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs (which they definitely are). I've worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it's easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict, precisely because they're so ubiquitous in our society that people inevitably have to interact with them on some level."
Dr. Michael Bishop spoke with NPR about the escalating issue of youth overusing their devices. Dr. Bishop runs Summerland, a camp designed for youngsters who have gotten too attached to their technology.
With locations in California and North Carolina, Summerland "are fun, safe, adventure-based camps for youth ages 10-18 looking for an unforgettable summer while creating new habits and learning new skills." The camp also encourages kids to learn about talents they may never have otherwise explored due to their obsession with technology.
Bishop told NPR that there are two main groups of teens who come to him. There are a majority of boys who spend a lot of their time playing video games, and a large majority of girls who spend a lot of their time on social media.
He believes that Summerland encourages children and teenagers to think about their habits because "when teens think about their behavior as a habit, they are more empowered to change."
Author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, addressed the concerns with technology in 2016 when he appeared on Inside Quest. He spoke about how social media likes and texting gives us doses of dopamine, the same chemical released when we smoke, drink, and gamble. "In other words, it's highly, highly addictive."
He went on to say, "You have an entire generation who has access to an addictive, numbing chemical called dopamine through social media and cell phones as they're going through the high stress of adolescence."
He added that people who spend more time on Facebook have higher rates of depression than people who don't -- which is an opinion that has been backed by research.
"If you're at dinner with your friends and you're texting someone who's not there... that's a problem. That's an addiction. [...] The fact that you cannot put it away is because you're addicted," Sinek also said. He concluded by saying that, like all addictions, it will make your life worse and will damage relationships.
So, the next time you feel like grabbing your phone during dinner or checking your emails before breakfast, consider giving your eyes a rest and enjoying the day.
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