Are Kids With Smartphone Addiction At Risk For Mental Health Problems

Are Kids With Smartphone Addiction At Risk For Mental Health Problems?

Dec 16 • Internet Risk/Addiction, Mental Health • 7532 Views • Comments Off on Are Kids With Smartphone Addiction At Risk For Mental Health Problems?

Smartphones are incredibly handy.  With something small enough to fit in their pocket a person has access to geo-navigation, endless research, entertainment and communication.  Our fascination with the screen and all its potential is at the center of much research.  A Korean psychiatric researcher recently reported to a meeting of American psychiatrists that smartphone addiction can be linked to subscale mental health disorders.

Dr. Lee of Catholic University in Daegu, Korea told assembled psychiatrists that in his study of just under 200 teens and young adults, those with stronger Internet and smartphone addiction tendencies also showed more signs of mental health problems.  Dr. Lee and his research team used an Internet addiction measurement tool devised in 2010 to rate each person’s level of addiction to the Internet or smartphone.  Psychopathologies were based on a Youth Self Report created in Korea where smartphone use has exploded in recent years.

Huge Spike In Smartphone Use

Those using smartphones in Korea in 2009 numbered less than 500,000.  By 2012 that number had soared to over 30 million.  Korean government agencies have said that eight percent of the general population is addicted to the Internet or a smartphone.  The percentage is slightly higher (around 10 percent) for addicted children and teens.  Also, in 2010 only around 8 percent of older Korean teens (15-19 years) owned a smartphone but by 2012 a larger percentage of 67 percent had one.

The Stronger The Smartphone Addiction, The Greater The Signs Of Mental Illness Problems

The study found that the more a young person said they were addicted to smartphone use, the more apt they were to demonstrate signs of problems such as: anxiety, depression, withdrawal, attention deficits, sleep disturbances, delinquency, aggression, and poor problem solving.  Other studies have also drawn a line between screen addictions (computer, tablet, smartphone) and depression.

Smartphone’s Effects On Academics

Koreans are concerned that children who once ran and played during school recesses now stare transfixed at tiny smartphone screens during the entire break instead.  The country, which places heavy emphasis on academic achievement, also worries that preoccupation with smartphones may lead to poor school performance.  Here in the U.S. some schools allow children and teens to keep smartphones with them during school hours and others make attempts to block their school-house use.

What Parents Need To Watch For With Kids’ Smartphone Use

In presenting to the American Psychiatric Association Dr. Lee was open in calling for more research with stricter controls.  Meanwhile, if parents notice that their teen needs to take his/her smartphone with them into the restroom or keep it with them in bed at night this may be a signal of an addiction.  Kids who demonstrate a high degree of anxiety when their smartphone is lost or taken away may also be waving a red flag.  Dr. Lee did suggest a push for digital addiction screenings to become more standard given the physical and social ramifications of their overuse.
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