A Quarter of Young People May Have “Problematic Smartphone Use”

Teens and young adults are the most vulnerable

cell phone
When does phone use become problematic?

New research suggests one in four children and teens may have “problematic cell phone use” that could be linked to poorer mental health, the Guardian reported.

According to experts behind the research published in journal BMC Psychiatry, more than 23 percent of children and young people have a dysfunctional relationship with their smartphones. While experts have long questioned the side effects of screen time on mental health and wellbeing, the new research suggests that particular patterns in people’s relationships to technology and smart devices may be more harmful than screen time itself.

“It seems like a substantial minority of teenagers and young people from various different countries are self-reporting a pattern of behaviour that … we recognise from other addictions,” said Dr Nicola Kalk of King’s College London, co-author of the study. “The quality of the evidence is poor, but it is enough to warrant further investigation.”

The researchers looked at data from 41 studies involving a total of almost 42,000 participants across Europe, Asia and America, analyzing a pattern of problematic cell phone use among teens and young adults. Signs of this kind of negative relationship with technology included feelings of anxiety when separated from devices or neglecting other activities in favor of smartphone use.

The researchers pointed out it was too early to call problematic cell phone use an addiction, but noted that the results revealed similar emotional and behavioral patterns.

“One of the most critical things for parents to consider is whether screen time is having a detrimental impact on other activities like school, relationships or other interests,” said Prof Russell Viner, President of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. “This study suggests that this is the case for a significant minority of children and young people.”

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