Recently, we posted about digital addiction in adults – it is a real problem when computer, tablet, or smartphone use takes priority over other areas of your life.  But adults are not the only ones who can end up with digital addictions or addictions to their smartphones – it can, and often does, impact teenagers.  Teenagers have grown up using cell phones – texting has been a primary means of communication, social media apps are a popular way teens stay in touch with friends, and video games on phones are often a go-to way to burn downtime.  But when phone use becomes so frequent that it becomes a smartphone addiction, it can cause problems in mental health, impact schoolwork, and impact self-esteem.

Warning Signs of a Cell Phone Addiction

What can we look out for when trying to identify if cell phone usage has crossed a threshold into being problematic?  Here are some signs that you can look out for as a parent:

  • Regularly switching between multiple devices and programs such as social networking apps, texting apps, games, and more
  • Having extreme reactions when separated from their device
  • Pain in the wrists, fingers, neck, or back from poor posture and overuse of a cell phone
  • Demonstrating impatience, irritability, restlessness, or an inability to focus in school when their phone is not accessible
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia due to being on their smartphones late at night
  • Increased social challenges due to a lack of face-to-face communications
  • Screen time that exceeds two hours a day

Impacts of a Cell Phone Addiction

Being a teenager with a cell phone addiction or a smartphone addiction can cause many problems and impact mental health and well-being, as well as physical health.  Screen addictions have been linked with a higher incidence of childhood obesity and unhealthy eating choices, can cause problems sleeping, can impact eyesight and vision, and cause pain from bad posture (hunched over and looking down).  Additionally, excessive cell phone use and mobile device addiction are associated with significant decreases in GPA (four or more hours a day is linked to a one-point drop in GPA) which can have long-lasting impacts that young people may not be thinking about when overusing their devices.

What Can We Do?

If you think your child has an addiction to their smartphone or cell phone, it is important that the problem be addressed quickly.  Like any other addiction, the longer it goes on, the more serious and reinforcing the addiction becomes.  However, unlike other addictions, it isn’t always feasible to disconnect from smartphones or cell phones – it is almost a given that a mobile phone is there to request rides, communicate with friends, make plans, and get in touch with parents.  Therefore, striking a balance between imposing a daily time limit for smartphone use, and creating guidelines about proper usage of a smartphone is key.  In many cases, this addiction may be an indicator of, or cause of, mental health issues such as self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and more.  Treating the root cause by working with a qualified mental health professional at the Granato Group can help to mitigate a cell phone addiction, and address underlying conditions that contribute to a need to overuse a cell phone or smartphone.