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Are smartphones addictive?
Every fourth child and every fourth adolescent seems to be addicted to the smartphone. This condition can go hand in hand with increased depressive moods, increased stress and sleep problems, as a recent study shows.
The latest investigation by King’s College London found that many children and adolescents use their smartphones in a way that is comparable to an addiction. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "BMC Psychiatry".
Dysfunctional use of smartphones is widespread
The researchers found that around 23 percent of children and adolescents use their smartphones dysfunctionally. Such use could lead to health problems.
How is problematic smartphone usage defined?
A problematic use of smartphones includes any behavior in connection with smartphones that has the properties of an addiction. These include panic or anger, for example, when the phone is not available or when people prefer the phone to other pleasant activities.
Data from over 41,000 people were evaluated
The results of 41 studies were evaluated in the current study. These included a total of 41,871 adolescents and young people. 55 percent of the participants were female. Young women in the age group of 17 to 19 were very likely to have problematic smartphone use.
Problematic smartphone use and its effects
The researchers also examined the relationship between this type of smartphone use and mental health and found a consistent relationship between problematic smartphone use and poorer mental health in terms of depressed mood, anxiety, stress, poor quality of sleep and level of education.
Does mental health suffer from smartphone use?
"Our report assesses not only the effects of heavy use, but also the dysfunctional use of smartphones, and by looking at an addictive behavior pattern towards smartphones, we found associations between this type of dysfunctional behavior and poorer mental health outcomes," said study author Dr. Ben Carter of King’s College London in a press release.
More and more children are using smartphones
The use of smartphones among children and adolescents has increased significantly in the last ten years. This coincided with an increase in the most common mental disorders in the same age group. In order to clarify the possible connection between smartphone use and mental health in children and adolescents, the researchers examined patterns of smartphone-related behavior and not the use of smartphones per se.
Are the apps on smartphones the real problem?
There is a need to understand the prevalence of problematic use of smartphones as smartphones are used more and more often and earlier. It is still unclear whether smartphones are addictive or whether applications (apps) on them have such an effect.
Parents should keep an eye on their children's smartphone use
The public should be made aware of the use of smartphones by children and adolescents. Parents should be aware of how much time their children spend in front of their smartphones. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Samantha Sohn, Phillipa Rees, Bethany Wildridge, Nicola J. Kalk, Ben Carter: Prevalence of problematic smartphone usage and associated mental health outcomes amongst children and young people: a systematic review, meta-analysis and GRADE of the evidence, in BMC Psychiatry ( Query: 29.11.2019), BMC Psychiatry
- An estimated 1 in 4 children and young people have problematic smartphone usage, King's College London (query: 29.11.2019), King's College London