Giving Your Child a Smartphone is Like Giving them Drugs

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Giving your child a smartphone is like “giving them a gram of cocaine”. This startling statement was made by an addiction therapist in the United Kingdom because of the increasing problem of smartphone addiction among teens.

Spending long periods of time replying to messages on Instagram, checking Facebook posts, or texting can be just as addictive as drugs and alcohol. Some studies indicate that “coming off” smartphones can exhibit similar withdrawal symptoms.

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Professor Jennifer Ihm from the Kwangwoon University in Korea published a study involving smartphone addiction among 2,000 12-year old children. Prof. Ihm reported that being addicted to your smartphone can result in poor psychological and physical health. Smartphone addiction can also impair academic achievement at school.

As many as 50% of teenagers say they are addicted to their phone

Some studies indicate that as many as 50% of teenagers say they are addicted to their phone with 84% of them saying that they couldn’t go a day without their phone.

So, parents should be concerned if they notice some of the signs of smartphone addiction as this can lead to increased social problems for their children.

Apart from being linked to psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, overuse of smartphone can cause neck pain, wrist pain, sleep disorders, and feelings of insecurity.

What are the signs of smartphone addiction?

Some signs that a person (adult or child) is becoming addicted to their smartphone can be checking the phone for no reason, feeling anxious without their phone, waking up in the night to check messages or poor academic achievement due to distractions.

Even though addiction to smartphones doesn’t have many of the health and financial complications of other addictions, withdrawal from them can be just as difficult.

Psychologists who treat addiction say that smartphone addicts can express anger, depression, tension, and restlessness when they are trying to change their smartphone use.

Parents should set the proper example for their children

The journal Paediatrics Child Health care recommends that parents set the proper example for their children to help prevent their kids from becoming addicted. This means limiting their own use of mobile devices when kids are around. Also having screen-free mealtimes can help instill healthy attitudes toward family relationships and smartphone use.

Smartphones, Tablets Causing Mental Health Issues in Kids as Young as Two

Professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell from San Diego State University compiled data from over 40,000 children in the U.S. aged between 2 and 17. They found that the length of time children spend on social media, watching videos, and texting on their mobile devices is directly related to their emotional wellbeing.

Professor Twenge found that nearly half of children who are on screens for 2 hours or more lose their temper quicker and find it more difficult to calm down.

It also seems that too much screen time for children between ages 2 and 5 also affects their mental development.

Higher screen use caused behavioral problems

The study also found that higher screen use caused behavioral problems in older children and adolescents. Those spending more than 4 hours on their devices exhibited problems such as being argumentative, showing a lack of curiosity, being less sociable, and increased anxiety.

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For example, teens who spend more than 7 hours a day on their mobile phones or watching T.V. are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety-related disorders than those who only spend an hour.

Children are spending more than the recommended time on their screens

What may be worrying about the results of the study is that, on average, children are spending more than the recommended time on their screens.

The study recommended that parents should limit screen time for children under 5 to one hour a day. Currently, pre-school kids are spending on average nearly 2 and a half hours in front of a screen.

For school-aged children and teens, the limit should be 2 hours a day. However, on average, children between ages 14 and 17 are spending nearly 5 hours a day on electronic devices.

The advice that professors Twenge and Campbell give is that parents should monitor their children’s screen time and limit if necessary.

Spending too much time in front of a screen has an adverse effect on a child’s health in general

The journal Paediatrics Child Health reported that there is growing evidence that spending too much time in front of a screen has an adverse effect on a child’s health in general.

Some of the health risks that increased screen time has includes poor physical health, impaired mental development, obesity, and issues forming relationships.

However, the report wasn’t all bad news for children and parents. When used appropriately, limiting screen time to an hour or so a day and encouraging the use of educational, age-appropriate games can have a beneficial effect on a child’s mental development.

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Smartphones Are Contributing to a Generation of Depressed Teens According to Multiple Studies

Depression among teenagers could be linked to spending too much time on their smartphones. New research suggests that constantly watching videos, checking social media, texting, and playing games can lead to an increased risk of depression and anxiety.

Smartphones are now an essential part of any teenager’s life. A study by the Pew Research Center indicates that over 90% of teens use mobile devices every day. What is worrying for some researchers is that nearly one-quarter of “mobile teens” are constantly going online with their mobile devices.

Although parents may be worried about their children wasting time posting social media pictures, sharing videos, or general Internet browsing, researchers have discovered that too much screen time can lead to anxiety disorders and depression.

Researchers from Korea University looked at the effects on mental health that increased smartphone use causes. Dr. Hyung Suk Seo who conducted the study used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to examine the brain activity of 15-yr olds who have “smartphone addiction.” The results were evaluated with similarly-aged teens who control their mobile device use.

The study revealed that the constant use of mobile devices leads to chemical imbalances in the brain. These changes in the brain affect cognitive performance and emotional processing. Dr. Seo explains that this puts a person at risk of suffering from mood disorders and depression.

There is a connection between mobile device use and general happiness among teens

Other studies have also noted a connection between mobile device use and general happiness among teens. Prof. Jean Twenge from the San Diego State University surveyed over 1 million teens over a 25-year period. She found that the rapid adoption of smartphones was linked to a drop in feelings of well-being and happiness.

Teens who limited their time on electronic devices reported the highest levels of happiness.

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It is interesting to note that completely avoiding internet use wasn’t related to feeling happier. It seems that limited screen time of less than one hour a day results in the most positive emotions.

However, not all scientists agree that there is a direct connection with smartphone use and depression. The results of some studies suggest that there is more involved with teenage depression than just using mobile devices too much. There is also some benefit from limited screen time for children and teenagers.

Your Kid Probably Has “Text Neck” — Here’s What You Need to Know

Much has been written on the possible psychological effects on kids using smartphones constantly. However, kids who spend a lot of time on their phone, tablet, or other electronic devices could suffer many physical effects. One of the effects on kids and adults of too much phone use is “text neck.”

Every parent at some point has told their child to “sit up straight!” The posture that children (and adults) adopt when texting or watching videos on their phone is causing a number of neck and back problems.

Dr. Robert Bolash from the Cleveland Clinic says that more and more young people are reporting problems of neck and back pain. Holding a mobile device and looking at the screen causes strain in the muscles and tendons in the neck.

Dr. Bolash explains that dropping your head forward with your chin at your chest puts about 60 lbs. (27 kg) of force on your neck muscles. The weight on your neck when your head is in an upright position is just 10 lbs (4.5 kg).

Poor posture limits your lung capacity and put more pressure on your heart

But it is not just your neck that is affected. Poor posture while using a mobile device limits your lung capacity and put more pressure on your heart.

The concern for parents should be that, if this is how using a smartphone affects adults, think of how it could be affecting your child’s health.

A 2017 report from Common Sense Media found that, in the space of 4 years, the amount of time 8-yr olds spend on their smartphone has tripled.

How to prevent “text neck”

To help prevent your child from developing “text neck”, help your child to know the importance of sitting with their back straight. Get them into the habit of holding their smartphone at eye level, especially if watching for an extended time.

It is not just checking messages, texting, or watching videos that can be making your child have a pain in their neck. Too much time on social media and smartphones encourages a sedentary lifestyle.

Many studies show that a lack of physical activity can impact the health of children. One study from Canada recommended that children between 5- and 17-years old limit their screen time to no more than 2 hours a day, spend less time indoors, and keep physically active.

Research has found that children as young as two are showing signs of anxiety and depression because of smartphones and tablets. Children who stare at the screen for just an hour a day are more likely to be depressed or anxious. The worrying reports come from a 2016 study showing that kids who use smartphones or tablets are at greater risk of mental health issues.

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