How is smartphone addiction affecting teenagers mental health?

For many of us, our smartphones are now an essential part of our daily lives. And with more children and teenagers owning them than ever before, there has been a rise in concerns about the effects they could be having on young people’s mental health and development.

There have been numerous studies into the impact smartphones have on children and teenagers, with one recently released piece of research finding that it could be causing a lot of harm – with nearly a quarter showing signs of smartphone addiction.

For this analysis, researchers looked at 41 studies looking at 41,871 teenagers and young adults in America, Europe, and Asia.

They found that, on average, 23% of the children and young people who took part in the research had “problematic” or “dysfunctional” behaviour patterns when it came to their phones. This included anxiety when they were without it or missing out on other activities.

This was shown in the research to have a harmful effect on their mental health. For example, people with problematic smartphone use had increased rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and poor sleep patterns or difficulty sleeping.

A lot of the users who had problems with smartphone use reported spending large amounts of time on social networking sites, with young women between 17 and 19 showing the most symptoms and being most at risk from smartphone addiction or unhealthy use.

Co-senior author Dr Ben Carter from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London said, “Our review assesses the effects not just of heavy use, but of dysfunctional smartphone use, and by looking at an ‘addicted’ pattern of behaviour towards smartphones we have established correlations between this type of dysfunctional behaviour and poorer mental health outcomes.”

Author Dr Nicola Kalk from King’s College London added: “Smartphones are here to stay and there is a need to understand the prevalence of problematic smartphone usage. We don’t know whether it is the smartphone itself that can be addictive or the apps that people use.”

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