New report: One out of every two teens ‘addicted’ to smartphone

Might as well face it we’re addicted to phones. (AJC Photo.)

We have created a monster with smartphones, and it’s not just teens locked in its grip. Increasingly, we live in a world where everyone is looking down to check texts or looking up to smile for a selfie.

A teacher told me her middle school students are losing “executive functions,” the mental skills that help kids get things done, organize responses and find solutions. These executive functions include managing time, paying attention and planning. Confronted by any problem, students want to pull out their phones, punch in the question and trust Google to supply the answer.

Is that a bad thing?

I continually hear students don’t need the same recall abilities of earlier generations because they now carry encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses, almanacs, medical journals, plant taxonomies, calculators, poetry and modern literature in their pocket. They don’t have to memorize the periodic table, the Gettysburg Address or math formulas because they can summon them in seconds on their phones.

Do average students — not the future engineers or surgeons – even need to know how to figure out percentages when they have a super-fast calculator in their hands at all times?

Many college professors have written confessional essays on their mistake in welcoming iPads, laptops and smartphones into their classes. Even professors who teach social media lament how difficult it has become to stop students from being distracted by their devices.

Children are becoming attached to mobile phones at earlier ages. I see fourth graders checking their smartphones as they walk home from school. Schools have lost the battle on cellphones; many parents believe it’s essential their kids have access to their cellphones at all times.

With that background here is a statement from Common Sense Media about its new report on mobile devices in America:

A new report issued today by Common Sense Media finds that 50 percent of teens “feel addicted” to mobile devices, and 59 percent of their parents agree that their kids are addicted. Additionally, parents and children are concerned about the effects mobile device use has on their daily lives — from driving to the dinner table — with over one-third of the families in the Common Sense poll arguing about it daily.

The Common Sense poll surveyed 1,240 parents and kids from the same households (620 parents, 620 kids) and accompanies a white paper that reviews the latest scientific research about problematic media use, including impacts on youths’ well-being and development.  Together they offer a fresh, comprehensive review and perspective on addiction and media use in the U.S. today.

“Mobile devices are fundamentally changing how families go about day-to-day lives, be it doing homework, driving, or having dinner together,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “What we’ve discovered is that kids and parents feel addicted to their mobile devices, that it is causing daily conflict in homes, and that families are concerned about the consequences. We also know that problematic media use can negatively affect children’s development and that multitasking can harm learning and performance. As a society we all have a responsibility to take media use and addiction seriously and make sure parents have the information to help them make smart choices for their families.”

Key findings from the survey of parents and teens include:

Addiction: One out of every two teens feels addicted to his or her device, and the majority of parents (59 percent) feel that their kids are addicted.

Frequency: Seventy-two percent of teens and 48 percent of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications; sixty-nine percent of parents and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least hourly.

Distraction: Seventy-seven percent of parents feel their children get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they’re together at least a few times per week.

Conflict: One-third of parents and teens (36 percent and 32 percent, respectively) say they argue with each other on a daily basis about device use.

Risky behavior: Fifty-six percent of parents admit they check their mobile devices while driving; fifty-one percent of teens see their parents checking/using their mobile devices when driving.

Common Sense’s white paper, a review of existing studies and research on Internet use, technology, and addiction, concludes that there is cause for concern around problematic media use, which in extreme cases can have very damaging consequences. The paper finds that multitasking, toggling between multiple screens or between screens and people — which is common for kids doing homework or socializing — impairs their ability to lay down memories, to learn, and to work effectively. Additionally, problematic media use can harm face-to-face conversation and undermine the development of empathy. Parents and teens should avoid multitasking with devices while talking to others and avoid replacing human interactions with technology.

“Parents are right to be concerned about the impact of media on the development of their kids,” said Ellen Wartella, a leading scholar of the role of media in children’s development. “It is a good thing that parents and educators are focused on kids’ social and emotional learning and asking the right questions — many of which we don’t know the answers to yet. From attention disorders and multitasking to basic social interaction and interpersonal skills, we need to devote more time and research to understanding the impact of media use on our kids and then adjust our behavior accordingly.”

The Common Sense report stemmed from last November’s landmark report, Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, which indicated that U.S. teens use an average of nine hours of media per day. The technology addiction research was initiated to spark a national discussion on media and technology use by acknowledging a pervasive feeling of addiction by American families and to help them identify resources to resolve family conflicts and encourage responsible use of technology.

Resources for families who are concerned about media use are available on the Common Sense website, including “5 Simple Steps for a Healthy Media Diet,” our Family Media Agreement, video guides, and 20 Q&As that include answers to questions such as: “Is Internet addiction real?”, “What are the downsides to multitasking?”, and “How can I make sure my kid doesn’t become addicted to technology?”

A webinar on helping families achieve media balance will be held on May 19 and will be free to the public here. To review the white paper and executive summary in their entirety, click here.

 

Reader Comments 0

15 comments
sethandrews22
sethandrews22

So we have a bunch of tech addicts, increasingly unable to think deeply about anything (as though thinking were taught in our schools anyway). Now what? 


It's not enough to say to the crackhead "put down that pipe" -- addiction requires intervention and treatment from the outside in before there's a will and way to change. It's gonna take more than "this is your brain on snapchat" ads to break through, but not sure what that is or if anyone is thinking deeply about solutions. 


Think I'll go bury myself in tinder pics and pretend all is well with the world.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

Seriously, walk or drive around a college campus.  I go through Emory regularly.  The ONLY females walking around (and there aren't many males either) who don't have a phone permanently attached to their hand are those sitting down working on their laptops.  Even the ones walking with others are usually looking at their phones while doing so.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

You know what they say about addiction, most are in denial.  So if 50% admit it, that gets you to 100% pretty quick!

kfullerton
kfullerton

I'm a high school teacher, and I can verify that students are losing executive function. My students ask me repeatedly to send them reminder texts after school to make sure they do their homework. If I don't, then both parents and students complain that I never notified them of the assignment, despite it being posted in class and online. 

I appreciate that having cell phones in class means I can have my students play educational games or research data. But I would also appreciate if parents taught both etiquette and basic skills, like recording due dates and using a calendar. By the time they get to my senior level class, their bad habits are so ingrained that I have limited ability to affect them. 

Astropig
Astropig

I had an interesting revelation about this subject the other day while traveling.I stopped at a restaurant (in Macon) and was alone.Next to me at two different tables were couples that were obviously married.One couple looked to be in their mid-late 20's.They barely spoke.They spent almost the entire time texting,deleting,swiping,silencing,etc... The only time they put their phone down was to take a few bites.The other couple seemed to be in their mid-late 60's. They had a conversation.They talked,they laughed,they looked up at one another like people that were in love.


I feel sorry for teens that will never experience what that older couple can share.

sethandrews22
sethandrews22

@Astropig I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm afraid the problem isn't unique to a single generation. A similar experience at a Decatur restaurant last weekend had me marveling at the fact that a married couple in their late 50s - early 60s (presumably to each other) could eat an entire meal without speaking a single word that wasn't related to what they were reading and watching on their respective phones. I had to resist the urge to fish out my own phone, snap a pic or two, and post the offense to Facebook. 


Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows is worth reading and heeding. My fear is 

sethandrews22
sethandrews22

@Astropig @sethandrews22 Sorry, I was distracted by Cruz news lighting up my Twitter feed and totally forgot. But a new thought...my fear is technology and its social apps have aided in making us a nation of imbeciles capable of electing the orange man president.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Astropig They didn't call it the crackberry for nothing.  Just that now its "cool" to be addicted to your iPhone.

redweather
redweather

Lots of us "old-timers" in the education profession have been treated like Neanderthals over this issue for far too long partly because our colleagues are just as addicted as our students. 

HILUX
HILUX

In referring readers to online links for background there's no irony intended?

Robin J Richards
Robin J Richards

No doubt researched by the US Department of NO KIDDING??!