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MAC Counselling Blog

Social Media & Smartphone Addiction in Teens

Friday, September 09, 2016

Children are learning how to use mobile phones and receiving their own at younger ages than ever before. Since teenagers have grown up in an era where mobile phone use has been ingrained in them at such a vulnerable age, they are very susceptible to developing an addiction to their smartphones and/or social media.

The human brain isn’t finished developing until around the age of 25 years old.

If a child or teenager suffers from a mobile phone addiction, it could have negative implications on brain development.

Research has revealed that there are a few adolescent personality traits associated with Internet addiction, which is closely related to smartphone addiction. These traits include:

High harm-avoidance.

  • These individuals tend to be worrisome, fearful, pessimistic, and shy.

Altered reward dependence.

  • The teen becomes dependent on rewards associated with the internet or mobile phone as opposed to natural rewards such as spending time with friends and family, getting good grades, or partaking in hobbies.

Low self-esteem.

Low cooperation.

Effects of Teen Smartphone Addiction

Smartphone addiction is closely related to Internet addiction, which is considered an impulse-control addiction. Teens who are addicted to the Internet tend to experience the following:

  • Decreased brain connectivity in parts of the brain that regulate emotions, decision-making, and impulse-control.
  • An increased likelihood to consume alcohol and use tobacco.
  • An increased likelihood to have poor dietary habits.
  • Increased levels of social loneliness.

Additionally, addiction to a mobile phone could lead to a number of harmful ramifications such as:

  • Neck pain associated with looking down at a mobile phone for too long.
  • Digital eye strain.
  • Burning and itching of eyes and blurred vision associated with looking at a screen for at least 2 hours.
  • Car accidents.
  • Research has revealed that texting and driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Teens and Social Media Use

Teenagers utilise many different forms of social media–such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter–which allow them to connect with their peers. While these applications provide the user with the ability to connect with others all around the world and access news and information, they also can lead to compulsive and problematic mobile phone use, cyber bullying, sexting, and Facebook depression, a term coined by researchers to define the depression associated with excessive social media use.

Research has revealed:

  • 92% of teens say that they go online daily, while 24% consider themselves to be online “almost constantly.”
  • Over half of teenagers go online many times a day.
  • 94% of teenagers access the Internet via their smartphones at least once a day, if not more.
  • Facebook is the most-commonly visited social media site for teens (71%), followed by Instagram (52%), then Snapchat (44%).

Does My Teen Have a Mobile Phone Addiction?

If you suspect that your teenager is suffering from an addiction to his or her smartphone, there are some signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for in your teen:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Significant weight change.
  • Change in diet.
  • Change in sleep patterns.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depressed or irritable mood.
  • Flat affect or facial expression.
  • Little interest in activities they once found enjoyable.
  • Difficulties paying attention.
  • Withdrawal from social interaction or activities.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Neglecting other activities and is constantly on his or her phone.
  • Sore neck or headaches.
  • Experiencing anxiety when without his or her mobile phone or service.
  • Experiencing “phantom vibration syndrome,” which means checking his or her phone when it hasn’t vibrated or rung.
  • Using his or her mobile phone while driving or crossing the street.


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