Is Your Child’s Smartphone Use Rewiring Their Brain?

Is Your Child's Smartphone Use Rewiring Their Brain?

While your smartphone may seem like an irreplaceable part of your life, it’s important to remember that they’re still relatively new technology – if you’re the parent of a teenager, it’s likely that you yourself didn’t have a smartphone, or even a cell phone, when you were your child’s age. If smartphones have become so ubiquitous and important to daily life that they’ve changed the way that you behave as an adult, what are they doing to today’s children who are growing up with this technology? Take a look at some of the ways that smartphones are changing the human brain and how that might be affecting your child.

Smartphones Can Make Your Memory Weaker

Teen looking at a smartphone with a blue case
When you can check any fact in seconds, your brain doesn’t learn to memorize them.

You don’t have to memorize phone numbers anymore because they’re stored in your phone. You don’t have to memorize directions because your phone has location services. You don’t have to remember facts because pretty much any fact that you could possibly want to verify can be found with a short Google search. The result of all this? You’re not using those memory skills because your phone is doing it for you, so your memory is getting weaker.

This is troubling enough for adults who already have these skills, but it’s even more troubling when you consider what’s happening to children who have never had to do any of this memorization. They may not be building these memory skills to begin with. You can put down the phone and practice memorization skills, but your kids may have to start from scratch to learn them.

Smartphones Make You Addicted

Did you know that some people report feeling the sensation of their phone vibrating in their pocket even when their phone isn’t there? Or that as little as 10 minutes of separation from your phone can trigger feelings of anxiety? Excessive smartphone use can lead to smartphone addiction, or to nomophobia (NO MObile PHOne phobia).

As with any addiction, the earlier it starts, the more difficult it is to break out of the addictive patterns of behavior. Kids growing up with smartphones as an ever-present part of their daily lives don’t have a frame of reference for what it’s like without them and can experience even more intense anxiety and withdrawal when forced to do without them.

Smartphone Addiction Can Cause Chemical Imbalances in the Brain

Two girls laying on the floor looking at their smartphones laughing
Kids who develop smartphone addictions are at greater risk for disorders like depression and anxiety.

Even without being forced to put the smartphone down, today’s kids may feel more anxious, tired, and depressed because of their smartphone use. When researchers looked at the chemical makeup of the brains of people with a diagnosed smartphone addiction, they found that the ratios of different neurotransmitters in their brains were off compared to people of the same ages and genders who did not have a diagnosed addiction.

The chemical imbalances caused by smartphone addiction could be having serious effects on the way the brain works, and these same imbalances correlate with depression and anxiety problems.

Mobile technology is difficult to avoid, and children probably should learn to use it, since it’s likely they’ll be expected to be fluent in this technology in their adult lives. However, it’s important to set limits to help your child learn to use smartphones responsibly, and ensure that they take time to learn and practice other skills as well. Parental monitoring software can help you manage and set healthy limits on your child’s smartphone use. To find out how parental monitoring software can work for you, get our free trial.