Phone Addiction Isn’t Just a Harmless Buzzword: What You Should Know

The correct age for kids to start using a smartphone is a subject of much debate among parents, teachers, and experts. But there is little debate over whether teens should have smartphones at all. More and more, a smartphone is becoming a necessity of life that a kid needs by some point in their teens. Teens use smartphones for more than just selfies and games – they’re a safety feature in a world where payphones have largely disappeared, and they’re also a useful classroom and homework tool. But smartphones also come with some serious drawbacks, like the possibility of phone addiction. Take a look at what you need to know about phone addiction and your teen. 

Smartphone Apps Are Designed With Addiction In Mind

Is your teen having trouble putting their phone down, even at night?

No one buys a phone with the expectation of getting hooked on it. But what many people don’t realize is that the apps that you download to the phone are created with the intention of causing addictive behavior in their users. 

For example, an app might delay showing new notifications until the time that developers believe people are most likely to close the app. Then, a flood of new notifications encourages users to keep the app open longer than they originally intended to.

Smartphone Notifications Offer Intermittent Rewards

Smartphones can be both a useful classroom tool and a distraction from schoolwork.  

For most people, the notification sound on your smartphone is just as likely to be announcing something negative as something positive. When your teen gets a notification, it could be a friend inviting them to do something fun, but it could also be a homework assignment. It could even be an unkind comment left on a photo or post. A smartphone is entertaining, sure, but it’s but it’s definitely not entertaining 100% of the time. 

The thing is, a smartphone is entertaining and produces positive feelings just often enough. If your teen got a homework assignment or a bullying comment every time they picked up their phone, they would probably avoid it. If every notification was something positive, it might take longer for your teen to put it down, but eventually, they would get bored with it. But the anticipation that the notification might be for something fun, and the knowledge that it will be something fun regularly, if not every time, keeps teens (and adults!) going back to the phone. It’s the same psychology that keeps people standing at slot machines for hours or scratching off lottery tickets every day. They win something just often enough to keep them going back. And smartphone notifications have similar addictive results. 

Overuse of Smartphones is Linked To Mental Health Problems

Some researchers have noticed a rise in mental health problems that are linked to the increase in smartphone use. One study noted that 48% of those who spent five or more hours of the day on their smartphones thought about suicide or made plans for it. 

Researchers theorize that interacting with other people’s online personas – which are often curated to present the best possible impression – rather than with the real person themselves can contribute to problems like depression, poor self-image, and anxiety in teens. Smartphone and internet addiction also seems to have an impact on brain chemistry, which can contribute to mental health problems. 

Each parent has to make their own decisions on when to allow their teen to have a smartphone and what rules to put in place regarding cell phone use, but it seems clear that it’s important for your teen’s health to set limits. Parental monitoring software can help you keep an eye on your teen’s smartphone use and watch for signs of addictive behaviors. To find out how parental monitoring software can work for your family, get our free trial.