kids addicted to smartphones

Parents everywhere are concerned about smartphone addiction and a new study suggests they have good reason to worry. In 2016, Common Sense Media found that half of all teenagers said they were addicted to their smartphones, and we can all guess that when the 2017-2018 statistics come out, that number will be higher.

In a blog post published this week on “Android Authority”, Tristan Rayner wrote the following:

“A typical smartphone user checks their phone 47 times a day, with those aged 18-24 checking 86 times a day, according to a Deloitte survey. 89 percent check their phones within an hour of waking up. They touch, tap, or swipe their device 2,617 times per day. That’s a million touches per year, just for an average user – it’s as much as double that for heavy users.” He went on to say, “Android users across the globe used apps on their phones for just short of 325 billion hours in just three months of 2017, or 37 million years. That’s up 40 percent from the same period in 2016 and doesn’t take anyone on iOS into account.”

According to a recent report from Google, 84 percent of U.S. teens between the ages of 13-17 own a smartphone. It is also a known fact that teens spend between 6 and 10 hours a day online, either messaging, watching videos, live streaming or looking at and posting to social media. Surveys and research continue to suggest that today’s parents need to start looking more deeply into their child’s smartphone habits while also increasing their own knowledge of the negative effects of excessive smartphone and internet use.

Korea University recently conducted an interesting study on the effect of smartphones on the adolescent brain and addiction. The premise of this research is that teens who are addicted to their smartphones have a chemical imbalance which predisposes them to depression and anxiety.

The researchers looked at adolescents with an average age of 15.5 years and included both males and females. The teens had been diagnosed with smartphone/internet addiction prior to participating in this study and were compared to a control group of non-smartphone addicted teens of the same age and gender.

The participants in both groups were evaluated using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), which lets researchers look at the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. It is not surprising that they found those teens who had severe internet/smartphone addiction were also found to have issues with anxiety, depression and impulse control.

We all can agree that adolescents don’t need any additional contributing factors to trigger impulsivity, as being a teenager is marked by struggles to control impulses. Teenage distractibility and impulse control have always been contributing factors when it comes to things like risk-taking, driving habits, social interactions, and drug and alcohol use. If this study is correct, and smartphones are negatively affecting a teens impulsivity, then it makes sense that we will continue to see an increase in the consequences associated with kids making impulsive decisions.

Many other researchers have weighed in on the topic, like Dr. Jean Twenge, the author of “iGen-Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us.” 

In her carefully researched book, Twenge states that rates of teen depression and suicide have “skyrocketed” since 2011, warns that this generation of teens and tweens are “on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades”, and says that “much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

Researchers, educators, law enforcement officials, practicing therapists and pediatricians continue to warn parents of the risks and to encourage healthy parenting in cyberspace, and smart parents are paying attention.

To be smarter, first parents need to know what their child is doing with their smartphone. How much time is your son or daughter online? How much sleep are they getting? What influences are they exposing themselves to and what risks are they taking when it comes to their social media identities? The smartest way for parents to find out is to use Social Judo. Real-time alerts about the things that are of concern today, sent directly to a parents smartphone. Simple. No need to spy on your child’s device, no need to scroll through their smartphones. Finally, parents can use a tool which gives kids room to make mistakes, but lets parents step in when those mistakes are too big.

Parents, you can be smarter, and your kids need you to be.


Andrea Difilippo is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, nationally recognized parenting expert and Chief Parenting Officer with Social Judo.