The Shiny New Addiction That Glows, Buzzes, and Flashes
What is sleek, shiny, incessantly buzzing and flashing and something most Americans can’t imagine living without? The answer is smartphones. Studies indicate the average American checks their phone 47 times a day, three times each waking hour. Clearly, smartphones are more than a necessity – they’ve become an addiction that needs to be recognized and dealt with. The following infographic will help parents and school counselors recognize the signs of smartphone addiction, develop ways to curb the need for digital screen time, and understand the potential of neurocounseling.
To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Bradley University’s Online Counseling Programs.
Add This Infographic to Your Site
<p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="https://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu/blog/the-shiny-new-addiction-that-glows-buzzes-and-flashes/" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank"><img src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/utep-uploads/wp-content/uploads/bradley/2019/03/14143332/Shiny-New-Addiction.jpg" alt="" style="max-width:100%;" /></a></p><p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="https://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu/counseling/" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">The Shiny New Addiction That Glows, Buzzes, and Flashes</a></p>
The Signs of the Times
Americans spend an average of 5.7 hours on their smartphones daily. This has caused concern: not only do 95% of Americans believe that technology addiction is a problem in the United States, 59% admit to their own addiction. Furthermore, 47% of parents think their kids are addicted, and 50% of parents voice concerns about their kids’ mobile device use as negatively affecting their mental health.
Millennials and Gen Z spend 6.6 and 6.5 hours on their smartphones, respectively. Gen Xers spend 5 hours on their phone daily, and baby boomers are on their phones for 3.8 hours each day. While the average American checks their phone 47 times a day, Americans ages 18-24 check their phones 84 times daily – that’s five-plus times per each hour they’re awake. There’s no real rest from these devices, either: 88% of millennials, 76% of Gen-Xers, and 48% of boomers keep their phones within reach of their bed, and 48% of all Americans check their phones in the middle of the night.
Several warning signs of smartphone addiction exist, from irritability and internet preoccupation to concealing the extent of usage from others and continued usage despite negative personal and interpersonal impacts. The roots of this addiction may stem from the notion of people feeling lost or worse without their devices – 65% of users admit to feeling panicked when they think their smartphone is lost, and 43% state it would be extremely difficult emotionally to give up their phones.
Furthermore, people tend to have difficulty stepping away from their phones despite self-awareness. For instance, 49% of Americans say they check their phones more often than they’d like, and 35% think they spend too much time on their phones. Most also point to phones as the cause of relationship and daily life problems: 86% of people have felt hurt when someone they were talking to got distracted by their smartphone, while 62% admit to being so distracted by their phones they didn’t hear what was being said to them.
Brain-Based Solutions for Smartphone Addiction
In addition to problems created in our daily lives and relationships, internet and smartphone addiction can impact physical, mental, and behavioral health. Individuals with internet addiction and problem usage have high levels of anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia, and have lower self-esteem levels. Furthermore, internet addiction has been shown to disrupt functional connectivity between regions in the brain’s frontal, occipital and parietal lobes.
Technology addiction can particularly take its toll on youth. Teenage smartphone ownership has risen 313% since 2011, when 23% of teens owned the devices. In 2018, that number jumped to 95%. At the same time, the rates of adolescents experience at least one major depressive episode (MDE) have risen dramatically by 57% – from 1.975 million to 3.1 million.
Smartphone addiction also changes brain chemistry. Levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are substantially higher in young people with smartphone addiction. One of our most common neurotransmitters, GABA regulates vision, motor control, anxiety, and other functions.
So how can we help young people change problematic habits?
Neurocounseling is “the integration of neuroscience into the practice of counseling.” The counseling works because our brains are physiological networks of neurons and pathways; “plastic” networks that can be altered via addiction, disease, trauma, and even the normal aging process.
Neurocounseling can be deployed to improve self-awareness, regulation, stress reduction and coping skills through techniques like biofeedback. It can also help clients retain their neural pathways to change habits and addictions. Additionally, it can be used to understand how and why brain changes occur.
School Counselors’ Role
School counselors have a responsibility to protect students from the risks of smartphone addiction and to promote healthy development. They can do this by creating or updating schoolwide smartphone use policies and communicating risks and prevention strategies. They could also spend time training teachers and other staff members to spot warning signs and developing intervention protocols and treatment plans. Additionally, they could utilize assessment tools to gauge usage. Finally, they can simply be available to teens needing help.
There are several strategies school counselors can use to help students limit smartphone usage. Some of this is mental, such as helping them to develop a mindfulness practice to be in the moment or taking technology breaks. Other tactics involve separating from the phone such as committing to offline activities or keeping it out of sight. Some strategies involve the phone itself, such as switching the ringer to silent, dimming the screen, turning the phone off periodically, disabling push notifications, or periodically shutting it off.
Smartphones are tremendously powerful tools, but their appeal can be addicting. Know the warning signs of addiction and how to get help to maintain balance in your online and offline life.