Half Of Teens Admit Smartphone Addiction, But Their Parents Are Just As Addicted

Shelley Hazen

Anyone who's spent a few minutes with teens won't be surprised by the findings of a new poll: half of young people admit to a smartphone addiction.

High school custodian in Homer, Alaska, and father of three Terry Greenwald told CNN that hallways are filled with "teenage zombies who are glued to their phones." He's watched them creep to their next class close to the walls so they don't have to look up from their phones.

"It gets interesting when they get to the stairways and the walls end for the stairway. They don't want to look up and they don't way to tumble down the stairs but often just slow way down and inch along until they reach the wall just past the opening. They are often late to the next class, but that's OK because they were successful at not diverting attention from their phone."

The poll, which found that entire families are apparently suffering from serious smartphone addiction, was conducted by Common Sense media.

While internet addiction is considered a public health crisis in other countries, in the United States it's not, and there's currently no criteria to determine whether or not someone is addicted, Medical Daily noted.

So for now, the best people can do is take a look at the data and respond by setting boundaries for smartphone use both for themselves and their kids.

The poll surveyed 1,240 parents and teens aged 12 to 18. The goal was to determine how smartphone use affected their lives and relationships. Among those surveyed, half of teens admitted to smartphone addiction, and 60 percent of moms and dads accused their kids of it. On the flip side, 51 percent of teens have seen their parents use their phones while driving, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

According to psychiatrist David Greenfield, who also founded Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, our society has already crossed a line when it comes to smartphone use.

"What people don't realize is that their smartphone is shaping them, it's conditioning them. As a culture we have crossed the tipping point of overusing the technology."

The data about teens and smartphone addiction is sobering.

Since smartphone and internet addiction aren't something people can be diagnosed with and the consequences of constant connection aren't completely understood, figures on the true rates of addiction aren't known. A 2011 review of more than a dozen research studies on the topic found that up to 26 percent of teens and college students are addicted.

"Technological addiction can happen to anyone," said digital detox expert Holland Haiis. "If your teens would prefer gaming indoors, alone, as opposed to going out to the movies, meeting friends for burgers or any of the other ways that teens build camaraderie, you may have a problem."

And if they get anxious when the smartphone is snatched away, it may be time for an intervention.

The only recourse available to technologically addicted families is to consciously unplug: set media curfews, prohibit phones at the dinner table, and consciously limit social media use. And because phone-checking actually sparks dopamine in the brain, Haiis has another useful suggestion: go outside and exercise instead to spike dopamine and break the cycle.

Perhaps that will end the curse of the "teenage zombies."

[Image via Syda Productions/Shutterstock]