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Students in the USA are hooked on smartphones and social media, obviously

There are many advantages teenagers can reap from using smartphones. Keeping them away from phones is not feasible or even wise at this time and age.

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No other time in history has there been such a wide interaction between humans and technology like in the digital age. As a result, Millennials and generation Z has been branded as “Digital Natives.” While social media has really opened opportunities for users in terms of easy communication and fast access to information from all over the world, it has practically detached ardent users from reality.

Unlike previous generations, this crop of youngsters does not find gratification in the real world. They only reach a deep level of satisfaction once they go through their social media pages. One particular group that has really tapped into the social media craze are the American students, who are permanently glued to their smartphones.

What the studies show

Social media has become the hub for most students’ activities. It is actually impossible to find a teenager that is not registered to any of the social media platforms today. Even the socially awkward individuals somehow find some form of belonging on the internet. This can be attributed to the fact that they can hide behind the screen and adopt any form of character that portrays them in good light among their peers, even if it is the direct opposite of their true nature.

With internet connectivity at their disposal both at school and at home, students can connect to online platforms through their smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Smartphones have become synonymous with teenage life that it is very difficult for a teenager to survive in a social circle without one. According to a study carried out by Pew Research Center in 2018, 95% of American teenagers between 13 to 17 years own or have access to a smartphone.

The study also shows that most American teens prefer Instagram (72%), Snapchat (69%), Facebook (51%) and Twitter (32%). YouTube is the most used platform at 85%, however, it is not considered a social media platform.

What is alarming about the findings is that at least 45% of the respondents claim that they are always online in a “near-constant basis”. Instead of channeling all their energy and free time towards constructive activities, they waste it all away surfing through the internet. The sad part is that the students surveyed did not understand the adverse effects of too much exposure to the internet. 31% of them cited positive effects of social media only, 24% of them commented on the negative effects, while the majority (45%) of the teens could not pinpoint whether social media affected them positively or negatively.

Social Media Addiction Statistics

Introduction of EdTech learning in American schools has increased students’ overreliance on PCs and smartphones. They are basically tied to their smartphones both in and out of school, which aggravates the situation. Apart from using technology to make grades in classrooms, they also use various social media platforms and apps to manage their lives.

Instead of the television, most of them use online platforms to stay abreast with the current news and trends. They also use the internet to connect with friends and even shop for clothes. Phones are therefore used in studies and also in recreational activities to distract them from the hurdles of everyday life. As a result, students have become more and more dependent on their smartphones and social networks. However, good knowledge of what the Internet offers helps them to find online tutors or even buy term paper when they need to improve their grades.

According to a 2016 survey carried out by Common Sense Media, 50% of teens felt they were addicted to their smartphone, while 78% of them felt the immediate need to respond to notifications, texts and social-networking messages on an hourly basis.

In another study to show the “impact of smartphone separation on cognition, emotion, and physiology”, young people performed badly on mental tasks when they were separated from their smartphones. They exhibited symptoms of withdrawals, increased heart rate, and blood pressure. There has also been a rise of depression and suicide rates among American teenagers in recent years, which the CDC attributed to “Increased New Media Screen Time”.

A recent study showed that the suicide rate increased by 65% from 2010-2015 and girls were found to have a higher risk than boys. Within the same period, the number of girls suffering from severe depression also rose by 58%.

The study also showed that 48% of those who spent at least five hours a day on their phones had suicidal thoughts against 28% of those who dedicated only an hour of social media binging. Although smartphone addiction cannot be medically diagnosed like alcohol and drug addictions, there are tell-all signs that indicate when a person is addicted to smartphones and social media.

The secret is not in the amount of time a person spends looking at the smartphone but on the context of usage. However, there are recognizable symptoms of internet and smartphone addiction, as outlined by Frontiers in Psychiatry’s 2016 published report. They include:

  • Conscious use in potentially dangerous situations, such as texting while driving; or in prohibited contexts like in a church or during dinner
  • Excessive use that results in conflicts with family or withdrawal from family
  • Negative effects on emotional functioning that affect social life at home, school or community
  • Continued use despite the negative effects
  • Frequent need to check the phone
  • Sleep disturbances or Insomnia related to constant checking of the phone
  • Excessive need to be connected to the internet
  • Increase in use to achieve higher level of satisfaction or to counteract sad mood (dysphoria)
  • Need to respond immediately to chat messages, notifications and alerts
  • Increased irritability or anxiety or feelings of unease when the phone is not accessible

How to Help Teenagers and Young Adults Overcome Smartphone Addiction

There are so many advantages that teenagers can reap from using smartphones. Therefore, keeping them away from phones is not feasible or even wise at this time and age. You may limit their usage at home, but they will still abuse them when they get to school to compensate for the separation. There are various ways you can help a teenager or young adult overcome this type of addiction. The first method is to educate them on the pitfalls of overusing smartphones. Engage them in an open dialogue about the pros and cons of screen time and let them be their own judge and jury.

Secondly, create limits to use. Family time is family time and there should be boundaries. Any person found violating quality time with family members by going through their phones should be held accountable. This goes for parents too. This can be achieved by setting up screen-free zones, such as in family outings, social gatherings or during meal times. The bedroom could also be a screen-free zone to prevent sleep disturbances that could hamper their productivity or even lead to serious health complications like depressions.

This can only be possible if parents are always on the lookout to ensure that their teens do not veer towards addiction. There are apps that can be used to track phone usage, such as the ‘screentime’ setting on the iPhone, which can be used to prevent excessive use. Lastly, parents should lead by example. Kids are more receptive to what parents do than what they say.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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