Morning Rounds: Teens and cell phone addiction

NORFOLK, Va - A recent study suggests an addiction to smartphones is changing teenagers brain chemistry, CBS News reported.

News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light explained what this means for your family on News 3 This Morning.

News 3:  How can addiction to smartphones/social media impact brain health?

Dr. Light:  Surveys by the Pew Research Center found that 77% of Americans own smartphones and 95% own cell phones of some kind.  People are becoming more dependent on smart phones and social media, and screen time is increasing among all age groups.   Researcher’s preliminary findings are “that medium to heavy multi-taskers, who engage in multiple forms of media simultaneously, tend to demonstrate smaller gray matter area (the attention center of the brain).”

Overuse of smartphones diminishes one’s ability to be attentive.  Smartphone addiction is prevalent enough to have its own medical term.  Nomophobia is “NO Mobile PHOne phoBIA” is the fear of not being able to use your cell phone or smart device.

News 3:  What can happen to their health as the result of an addiction?

Dr. Light: 

  • significantly increased anxiety
  • increased occurrence of depression
  • increased levels of insomnia
  • increase in impulsive behavior
  • inactivity and eye fatigue

News 3:  How do you know if your teenager is addicted?

Dr. Light:  There are online quizzes you can take to see if smartphone use has escalated to an addiction.  One is the NMP-Q (The Nomophobia questionnaire).

News 3:  What steps can be taken to fight back against smartphone addiction?

Dr. Light:  

  • turn off your phone certain times of the day (i.e. dinner, driving, playing with your kids)
  • remove social apps from your phone, only check them from your computer
  • wean yourself to 15 minute intervals of smartphone use at set times of the day
  • don’t take your smartphone to bed
  • use a regular old fashion alarm clock in the morning
  • replace your smartphone use with a healthy activity that includes interacting with real people